NACC to probe amnesty bill MPs
Pheu Thai suspects plot to undermine it
The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is set to investigate a group of 40 former Pheu Thai Party MPs who tabled a controversial 2013 amnesty bill for abuse of authority in what is seen as a bid to clip the wings of the party.
NACC member Supa Piyajitti, who chairs the inquiry panel, issued an order on Aug 5 to set up a panel of inquiry to probe the group of MPs led by former Samut Prakan MP Worachai Hema.
The NACC set up the panel after receiving complaints from the Democrat Party before the May 22, 2014 coup, and has recently written to tell the group that the inquiry will begin work. If the group wants to oppose the appointment of the panel's members, they must inform the NACC chairman within seven days.
The 40 former MPs have been accused of abuse of authority when they signed in support of the amnesty bill and put forward the bill for deliberation by the House of Representatives during the administration of Yingluck Shinawatra.
They include Mr Worachai, who proposed the original bill, and Tasanee Buranupakorn, vice-president of the Chiang Mai provincial administrative organisation and former Pheu Thai MP for Chiang Mai.
She was arrested last month for her alleged involvement in letters containing allegedly distorted information on the draft charter discovered in Chiang Mai during raids.
The other former MPs who supported the amnesty bill are Korkaew Pikulthong, Somkid Chuekhong, Kosol Pattama, and Rapipan Pongruangrong, the wife of red-shirt leader Arisman Pongruangrong.
The bill was criticised for its broad coverage of wrongdoers of political violence and its allegedly implicit aim to benefit former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Critics saw the bill as a tool to absolve all crimes and corruption cases from 2006 onward without clear and justifiable reasons.
The original version of the bill, put forward by Mr Worachai, sought only to grant an amnesty to rank-and-file protesters, excluding Thaksin, the protest leaders and authorities responsible for crackdowns.
The bill was later revised by a House committee vetting the bill. The revised version expanded the scope of the bill considerably, covering all people involved in political unrest, including soldiers, protest leaders and authorities.
The House passed the bill at 4.25am on Nov 1, 2013, drawing fierce public opposition. This prompted the People's Democratic Reform Committee's demonstrations against Yingluck Shinawatra. Mr Kosol, a former Pheu Thai MP for Nakhon Ratchasima, said he has been notified of the panel's inquiry and said the MPs at the time had the authority to present legislation.
They acted in line with a government policy to forge unity, and that people from all sides would have benefited from the amnesty bill, he said.
Mr Kosol noted that political factors may be at play to undermine the Pheu Thai Party, and said the draft charter's organic laws on the qualifications of MP candidates may be designed to keep Pheu Thai at bay.
Mr Somkid said the 40 former MPs will meet next week to discuss what actions to take to respond to the NACC's inquiry. He insisted the former MPs who proposed the bill only performed their legislative and constitutional duty.
Mr Korkaew said the original version of the bill proposed by Mr Worachai was well-meaning. It sought to grant an amnesty to political protesters, but exclude protest leaders. The aim of the original bill was to restore unity, he said. But when the bill was tabled to the House, it was up to the House to revise it, Mr Korkaew said, adding that the 40 former MPs only signed in support of the bill so it could be tabled to the House.
He said the bill went through normal legislative procedures like other legislation and a House committee was set up to scrutinise it.
It is unfair for the NACC to target only the 40 former MPs, Mr Korkaew said. The NACC should also take action against the MPs who voted to pass the bill.
At the time, a total of 310 MPs voted to pass the bill which was later rejected by the Senate.
Meanwhile, soldiers have detained a former Pheu Thai Party MP for Lamphun and a deputy mayor of Ban Thi municipality after they were alleged to have spread distorted information about the draft charter.
Former MP Rangsan Maneerat and Parinya Khaowat, the deputy mayor, were detained by soldiers from a peace and order unit of the regime and were handed over to the 11th Army Circle in Bangkok on Tuesday.
Watana Muangsook, a key Pheu Thai politician and staunch critic of the regime, wrote Thursday on his Facebook page that the pair were detained because they expressed their views on the draft charter's provisions covering welfare benefits such as the 30-baht universal healthcare scheme, monthly payments to the elderly and free schooling.