Mittwoch, 30. Oktober 2013

Tensions are rising again in Thailand

The parliament building.

Zur Deutschen Version

To the updated Version of November 1st

Some of you may remember my piece about Bangkoks "relaunched political gossip-factory" I wrote a couple of months ago (2nd August 2013: Right wing and conservative opposition groups (parlamentarian and non-parlamentarian) started a new series of anti-government protests in Bangkok in early August, because the ruling party Pheu Thai introduced a proposal for an amnesty bill in parliament, which should grant impunity for all people involved in political protests and unrest since the coup d'etat 2006, excluding Thaksin Shinawatra, Abhisit Vejjajiva, Suthep Thaugsuban and the military. But the opposition feared that the proposed bill would be modified to grant amnesty for ousted (and self-exiled) former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra and allow him to return to Thailand.

And they were right!

The first version of the amnesty bill, proposed by Pheu Thai Party MP Worachai Hema (...would not have granted an amnesty to ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, the protest leaders and the authorities responsible for the military crackdowns, but would have included everyone else convicted of crimes relating to political violence..., had been modified and rewritten by the House commitee and recommended by former PM Somchai Wongsawat (Pheu Thai Party and brother-in-law of Thaksin Shinawatra). The new version of the bill now includes Thaksin, Abhisit, Suthep and all responsible authorities for the crackdown in 2010.
...But the panel voted to approve revisions to Section 3 of the bill to grant a blanket amnesty to all people involved in political unrest, including protest leaders, soldiers, and authorities responsible for ordering the crackdowns. 
The amended section would also invalidate the decisions of the now-defunct Asset Scrutiny Committee (ASC) which investigated alleged irregularities of the Thaksin Shinawatra administration after the 2006 coup, as well as those by the National Anti-Corruption Commission, which took over the ASC's cases...

The second and third reading of the altered amnesty bill will be held from 31 October 2013 until 2 November 2013 at the House of Representatives, House Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont announced on 29 October 2013. The sessions will start at 10.00 AM.

This altered version of the amnesty bill triggered an enormous wave of anger. Not only the opposition parties and non-parliamentarian anti-government groups are enraged but also coalition partners of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, and some members of Pheu Thai party itself (who had been red shirt leaders in 2010) as well as relatives of the killed and injured victims of the crackdowns are speaking out against the modified version. The "Anti 112" movement (e.g. the 112 family network) is also opposing the amnesty bill because lèse majesté/political prisoners are excluded from the amnesty.

But why is the opposition so afraid of Thaksin´s return to Thailand? 
Because of the blanket amnesty he would no longer be banned from politics and could and will re-enter the political arena again (what is very likely)! His sister Yingluck could dissolve the parliament and call for early elections and there is no question who will be the next Prime Minister of Thailand. He was kicked out of office by the September 2006 military coup and had to flee the country (self imposed exile since 2008). One reason maybe that he has been publicly humiliated. Especially humiliation ist something a Thai will neither forget nor forgive and therefor his opponents possibly fear his revenge. Certainly there might be other reasons, but living in Thailand  I am not allowed to write about those topics, otherwise I would end up in prison!

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha declared that the army does not need an amnesty because the soldiers only followed orders and the Royal Thai Army was not one of the conflicting parties.

The Democrat Party also opposes the amnesty bill and already declared that its members will do whatever they can to prolong the second and third reading as long as possible. Their intention is to give the anti-government movements enough time to organize mass rallies. Finally, they will join the street movements in their protest against the new law.

On  August 7th only around 2,500 protesters joined the protest organized by the Democrat Party.

Other non-parlamentarian groups already teamed up and vowed to fight the bill by all means. They call themselves now PART ( People's Assembly Reforming Thailand). PART consists of former supporters and core leaders of the disbanded PAD (People's Alliance for Democracy), followers of the Pitak Siam movement (also disbanded), the PEFOT (People's Force for Democracy to Overthrow Thaksinism) which put up a permanent protest camp at Lumpini park, and the Students´ and People´s Network for Thailand Reform (joined by the White Mask movement) that has established a protest site at Urupong Intersection.

PEFOT stage at Lumpini Park.

Anti-Thaksin and anti-government propaganda.

White Mask protesters.

But also several red shirt groups and red shirt supporters such as Sombat Boon-ngam-anong's Red Sunday movement, followers of Surachai Danwattananusorn or supporters of the Free Somyot movement expressed their disappointment and their anger. Sombat declared on 29 October that he met with several leaders of other red shirt groups and that they agreed to organize a mass rally against the amnesty bill on Sunday, 10 November 2013.
...Mr Sombat admitted activists may not have enough time to mobilise people against the blanket amnesty if the House votes on the bill's third reading on Saturday. However, he said he still expected the anti-amnesty gathering next Sunday to draw more than 10,000 people...

Most of the red shirts, of course, would be happy about Thaksin's return to Thailand, however, not at any price! Several red shirt protesters on last Sunday's protest (27 October) at Ratchaprasong intersection told us that those who were responsible for the violence and the killings during the protests in 2009 and 2010 should be held accountable (which would be the first time ever in Thailand's history) and that they should not be given a pardon as it had happened so many times in the past. If those responsible escape unpunished again, this amnesty bill would be a carte blanche for new violence, crackdowns and military coup d'etats in the future .

Around 250-350 red shirts protested on 27 October 2013 against the amnesty bill at Ratchaprasong .

Protest against the amnesty bill by the Red Sunday movement on Sunday, 27 October 2013.

The article AMNESTY FOR ALL: WHAT WILL OUR CHILDREN SAY by Anuthee Dejthevaporn (Prachatai: got to the heart of the problem.
...If the ‘Amnesty for All’ bill is passed, then consider the consequences that may come. What will our children say, if one day they also get killed in a future political conflict and they have to fight for the justice all over again by themselves? What will our children say, when they realize that we, their parents, could have done some big things to create the true justice in this land for them, but sadly we didn’t?...

The next days and weeks could be very interesting indeed! Will the anti-Thaksin and anti-government movements be able to mobilise enough supporters to organise new mass protests? Will we witness violent incidents again, or is this just another storm in a tea cup? In my opinion the momentum is NOT strong enough for the opposition to mobilise tens of thousands of protesters yet. Ten or twenty thousand people certainly won't be enough to bring down the government or to stop the passage oft the amnesty bill.

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