Amnesty bill revision slammed
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Amnesty bill revision slammed

The government's amnesty bill took another step forward on Friday with approval by a scrutiny committee dominated by the Pheu Thai and coalition parties.

All seven sections of the bill, sponsored by Worachai Hema, a Pheu Thai MP for Samut Prakan, were approved by a vote of 18-5.

The revision of Section 3 drew heated criticism from the opposition Democrats and Kaewsun Atibhodi, a member of the defunct Asset Scrutiny Committee.

The section was revised by Prayuth Siripanich, a panel member under the Pheu Thai quota, to expand amnesty to include people found guilty by groups or "organisations set up after the military coup on Sept 19, 2006" and for blanket coverage from 2004 to Aug 6 this year.

The original bill would provide an amnesty for people involved in political unrest between Sept 19, 2006 and May 10, 2011. It would exclude ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the protest leaders and authorities responsible for the crackdowns, but would include all others previously convicted of crimes relating to political violence.

The intention of the revision was different from that of the section that passed the first reading, Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva told the committee.

The bill passed the first reading in the House of Representatives on Aug 8. After completing its work, the scrutiny committee will give lawmakers seven days to propose additional changes to the bill before sending it back to the Lower House for second and third readings.

Boonyod Sukthinthai, another Democrat MP, questioned whether the amnesty under the revised bill would have implications for the 46 billion baht worth of assets seized from Thaksin, who fled the country in 2008. He was not given an answer.

Mr Kaewsun said the inclusion of wording to specify "organisations" set up after the coup was clearly directed at the ASC and the only person to benefit from this clause would be Thaksin.

The ASC was set up by the coup makers to look allegations that Thaksin used political influence in ways that benefited him, his family and his businesses materially.

But Mr Prayuth, who is the panel's deputy chairman but not an MP, dismissed the claims, saying there was no intention to help the fugitive former prime minister. It was strictly written on a legal basis involving amnesty, he added.

However, Chada Thaiset, another deputy from the Chartthaipattana Party, admitted that the law apparently was aimed at aiding Thaksin.

The coalition party disagreed with the revised bill but had to vote to support it for the sake of political etiquette, he added.

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