Thai Govt to 'clarify' amnesty draft

THAILAND - The Interior Ministry will make full use of all the mechanisms at its disposal to clarify issues related to the amnesty bill, Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan said yesterday.

He said he had ordered provincial governors and district chiefs to explain to the people that the amnesty bill is in keeping with democratic principles.

As well, these officials must closely follow news about any anti-government movement and report it to the ministry. Third, they must try to persuade such movements to carry out their protests or other activities within their own provinces instead of mobilising to Bangkok.

The fourth point of Charupong's order is that provincial and district officials must evaluate the situation in their areas of responsibility and report it regularly.

He denied allegations that force would be used to stop people joining mass rallies that are being mobilised by anti-government groups.

Some of these groups are set to meet this week to plan a massive rally opposing the blanket amnesty bill, which they interpret as potentially benefiting fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

A House of Representatives panel vetting the government's amnesty bill last Friday voted to rewrite a clause, as proposed by Prayuth Siripanich, committee member from the ruling Pheu Thai Party, to include as beneficiaries people facing legal action in cases stemming from post-coup investigations.

The original draft proposed by Pheu Thai MP Worachai Hema did not grant amnesty to people convicted in criminal cases aside from political protest and did not cover protest leaders or the people who ordered the bloody 2010 crackdown.

Charupong said the new version of the bill would comply with Article 30 of the Constitution that says all people are protected equally under the law.

Drafting a law granting amnesty selectively would therefore be illegal, he claimed.

Meanwhile, giving amnesty would bring reconciliation and allow the country to move forward, he said. Asked to comment clearly on whether the new version of the bill would allow Thaksin to get his seized assets back, Charupong said the amnesty law had nothing to do with that.

Thaksin might ask the court to order the return his assets, but that would be a separate issue.

Democrat MP and legal expert Nipit Intarasombat said the new version of the bill would be against Article 309, the provision of the 2007 Constitution that protects the coup-makers from the consequences of their actions. Therefore, he claimed, it is the legitimate duty of the people to oppose the bill.

National Anti-Corruption Commission member Vicha Mahakhun said yesterday that passage of the new version of the bill would affect the NACC's investigation of the cases against Abhisit and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban.

He said the principle of equality should not undermine principle of the rule of law, and no part of the Three Sovereign Powers - the administrative branch, the legislative branch and the judiciary branch - should interfere in the work of another part.

Meanwhile, Uthai Yodmanee, a leader of a rally by the Students' and People's Network for Thailand Reform at the Urupong intersection in Bangkok, said many groups had come out to join the gathering.