Amnesty of betrayal can't rewrite history

Amnesty of betrayal can't rewrite history

There is nothing that unites the "We Hate Thaksin" brigade more than the possibility of an amnesty for the exiled former prime minister.

All of a sudden, the usual suspects, such as retired generals with empty nest syndrome, senile political has-beens and of course, the perennial "one-trick pony" party, start coming out of the woodwork for another day in the sun.

The possibility of Thaksin's return has a phenomenal effect on Thaksin haters, because it transforms them into some sort of heroic alter ego. Just look at the way the leaders of the three anti-amnesty protest groups have reinvented themselves. Maj Gen Chamlong Srimuang _ lest it be forgotten, Thaksin's one and only political mentor (bringing the billionaire into the Palang Dharma Party) _ suddenly warps himself into David, courageously opposing the Goliath that is Thaksin.

Sondhi Limthongkul, a person who had business dealings with Thaksin but switched sides so many times, now wants us to believe he's a male version of Corazon Aquino, leading the people in protest against tyranny and oppression.

But the most drastic transformation comes from the leaders of "the one-trick pony" party itself, namely Suthep Thaugsuban and Abhisit Vejjajiva.

These two leaders of the Democrat Party that colluded with undemocratic forces to bring us the 2006 coup, which led to an illegitimate Abhisit administration, ended up mimicking all of Thaksin's populist policies, and now want us to believe they're Aung San Suu Kyi fighting for liberal democratic values!

So let me sum this up correctly if I may. We're being asked to support this great revolt against the Thaksinisation of Thailand by placing our faith in protest leaders who:

a) were responsible for mentoring and introducing Thaksin to Thai politics.

b) had an intimate business relationship with Thaksin, before turning into a serial side-switcher.

c) copied all of Thaksin's political tactics and policies while they were last in government.

Let me be clear. I'm profoundly against the Thaksinisation of Thailand, and can think of nothing more repugnant. But honestly, I simply refuse to follow this bunch of invertebrates into protest, because you'll end up being used and tossed aside like a dirty handkerchief once they get what they want.

I've seen some pretty ridiculous things in Thai politics but believing Maj Gen Chamlong, Mr Sondhi or Mr Abhisit have the solution Thailand really requires is as idiotic as the guy who fixed the problem of his low ceiling by chopping off his legs!

Over the past few days I've heard and read the opinions of many of the political cognoscenti that urge all people of good moral standing to unite in protest against Thaksin.

"My enemy's enemy is my friend", is essentially their logic and it is indeed persuasive. But in my view, it is also shortsighted and flawed.

My question is this. What if we do somehow manage to permanently exorcise Thailand from Thaksin's political brand of demonic possession? Then what?

Do we just hope for the best and pray that someone less evil takes his place? That doesn't seem like a viable long-term strategy at all, because we know that under present circumstances it will be another Abhisit-led administration achieving office through undemocratic means that will do a rerun and we all know how that movie ended.

However, I'd like to end by making some observations regarding what academics and columnists are calling a "blanket amnesty" for all those involved in the political battle that has been raging since the coup.

Firstly, it is not and should never be called a blanket amnesty, because none of the versions of the amnesty bill give an amnesty to those who were slapped with criminal charges under the Criminal Code's Section 112, otherwise known as the lese majeste law. Make no mistake, those charged under Section 112 are mostly political prisoners, because they have been used unconscionably as pawns by leaders in the Pheu Thai Party, who have now struck a deal that keeps the military in their barracks in return for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's acquiescence in military affairs.

This deal is tantamount to nothing less than a betrayal by Thaksin and the Pheu Thai Party of the electoral promise that this abortion of a law, namely Section 112, will be once and for all eliminated from the arsenal of all Thai political operatives.

The Democrat Party, needless to say, has been the greatest beneficiary of Section 112, because it is their most potent weapon of mass destruction.

That is why, under the guise of protecting the monarchy, the Democrat Party, in my opinion, will instead go down in history as the Rasputin that has done our beloved institution the most harm.

Secondly, it is all too obvious that all roads in Thailand don't lead to Rome. All political roads in Thailand will lead to our courts.

It will be these men in dark robes that will decide what shall become law and whether changing the constitution is indeed constitutional.

It is a bizarre situation that the courts will face. If this amnesty bill is unconstitutional then what of the previous amnesty clause that the military junta granted itself in 2006? And what of the many other amnesty clauses after each previous military coup?

So potentially we could see an amnesty bill that has been passed by parliament deemed unconstitutional by our Constitution Court, while a military junta seizing power through the barrel of a gun that subsequently writes its own amnesty clause into our constitution is deemed totally legitimate.

Constitution Court judges should be swatting up on their answers to these questions because clever answers will be required.

So for the record. I am vehemently against this amnesty bill, but for different reasons from the current protests. I will only support an amnesty that brings Thailand together, and returns justice to those who have been forgotten. This is an amnesty bill that is not about the people. It is about power and politics and should be rejected, but for the right reasons.


Songkran Grachangnetara is an entrepreneur. He graduated from The London School of Economics and Columbia University. He can be reached at Twitter: @SongkranTalk.

Songkran Grachangnetara

Entrepreneur

Songkran Grachangnetara is an entrepreneur. He graduated from The London School of Economics and Columbia University.

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