Thai govt 'ready to retreat'

Thai govt 'ready to retreat'

THAILAND - Scepticism about PM's statement that they will abide by Senate decision on amnesty bill; rally to continue until bill withdrawn

The Pheu Thai government appears to be retreating from its stance on backing the controversial amnesty bill, which is facing growing public opposition, while the Senate also seems to be ready to reject the bill.

Though Pheu Thai secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai repeated Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's remark that the bill's future was in the hands of the Senate, he refused to say whether or not the House of Representatives would reaffirm the bill a 180 days later if it is rejected by the Senate.

However, Phumtham mentioned the earlier amnesty bill put forward by MP Worachai Hema, which did not cover protest leaders, those in authority or corruption cases. Worachai's version was replaced by that of Prayuth Siripanich, which would provide amnesty to everybody facing charges for illegal political activities from 2004 to 2013 as well as cases investigated by the junta-appointed Assets Examination Committee (AEC).

"If the public accepts the other draft [Worachai's] later, it would be wonderful when people in prison are freed," he said, referring to the red-shirt supporters currently being detained in relation to the 2010 protests.

Meanwhile, Democrat MPs said last night that the rally at Democracy Monument would continue until the government withdraws the bill.

Yingluck's speech yesterday afternoon was ambiguous and further enraged protesters. Later, Wim Rungwattanajinda, a PM's Office Ministry spokesman, said she was making a gesture of compromise and her remark that the ball was in the Senate's court was in no way meant to burden the Upper House.

"We insist we're not stubbornly pushing forward the bill, or rushing it into a law. Also, we insist that there is no lobbying of the Senate to approve it," Wim said.

Yingluck, in her statement on state-owned TV, said the government would accept the Senate's decision on the draft amnesty law. "Whatever is done by the Senate, I truly believe that the House of Representatives will accept it, based on what is in the nation's best interest," she said.

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