At the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) press conference on 23 October 2013, Mrs Tida Tavonseth, president of the UDD, along with other co-leaders such as Jatuporn Prompan, Weng Tojilakarn, Worachai Hema and other core members from Bangkok districts released a statement to oppose the revised version of the amnesty bill that was proposed by Pheu Thai MP Prayuth Siripanit.
On 18 October 2013, a House committee scrutinising the political amnesty bill voted to pass the draft legislation with blanket amnesty proposals and Mr. Prayuth was the person that spearheaded the proposed revisions to Section 3 of the seven-section bill.
Section 3 is a crucial part of the amnesty bill as it defines who will be covered by the proposed amnesty. The amended section seeks to nullify the actions taken by the Asset Scrutiny Committee (ASC) and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) after the 2006 coup. This would mean that former Thaksin Shinawatra would be free from his corruption charges if this amnesty bill were to be implemented. The revision also seeks to absolve all persons involved in political unrest, including soldiers, protest leaders and authorities.
At the press conference, Mrs Tida confirmed the UDD support for MP Worachai Hema’s original bill that covers only the persons of all political colours while excluding the protest leaders and the authorities. She also advised supporters of the revised bill and former PM Thaksin to seek for the amendment of article 309 instead of trying to use the amnesty bill as a way for him to come home.
“If you want justice for Thaksin who was victimised by the coup d’état, you should seek to abolish the main consequence of the 2006 coup which is article 309 of the constitution. Don’t try to sneak him in along with the amnesty bill,” said the president of the UDD. “Most Red Shirts supporters would like to see Thaksin return to Thailand but not in exchange for the freedom of murderers who ordered the killing of civilians,” she added.
“There are many crackdowns on civilians in the past and all of them were granted with blanket amnesty because the people were too weak to fight against injustice. However, this era is different. Through political awareness, the Red Shirts and the Thai people are strong enough to pursue and fight for fairness and justice in the past and present which can ultimately prevent such atrocities from ever happening again in the future,” said Assoc. Prof. Tida.
“Not only Thai people died, there were international journalists such as Hiroyuki and Fabio Polenghi who were also killed during the crackdown. What is Thailand going to say to the international community if we give amnesty to the people who ordered the killing of foreign journalists and citizens of our own country?” Mrs Tida concluded.
Mr Jatuporn Prompan, Red Shirts co-leader, said he is “unwilling to accept amnesty bill that let murderers who killed civilians go free because they deserve to be punished.” Jatuporn also commented about the majority of House committee’s explanation and reason for the proposal of the blanket amnesty. The majority of the House committee cited article 30 of the constitution which states that “all persons are equal before the law and shall enjoy equal protection under the law.” They reasoned that if the amnesty bill does not absolve everyone it risks violating the constitution.
In response to the House committee’s claim of article 30, Mr Jatuporn said that their argument is “weak.” For this reasoning to be valid, he said, the amnesty bill would have to cover les majeste prisoners also. But according to this revision, those found guilty of lese majeste offences under Section 112 of the Criminal Code would be excluded from the revised section’s coverage.
“The UDD co-leaders do not want to be under the same blanket with murderers who ordered the killing of civilians. We will not betray the Red Shirts,” Mr Jatuporn insisted.
“The only way to help Thaksin is through the amendment of article 309. If this section still exists, he will never come home,” the UDD co-leader added.
Dr. Weng Tojilakarn, Pheu Thai party list MP and co-leader of the UDD, also commented on the House committee’s citing of article 30 of the constitution. He said, “The purpose of article 30 is to protect the rights of the citizen not as prohibition of legislation as claimed by the majority of the House committee. Article 30 does not dictate how laws should be written. Members of parliament have the obligation to create legislation according to the will of the people. Right now the people want justice and want the murderers to be punished.”
As for the latest development, the majority of the joint House committee on the drafting of the amnesty bill have voted to pass the revised amnesty bill offering a blanket reprieve despite various objections from the Red Shirts MPs. The second reading of the bill will take place on 6 November 2013.