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Amnesty bill readings postponed to mid-Nov

Posted by Rattana_S On October - 27 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

THE HOUSE of Representatives is expected to deliberate the Amnesty Bill in the second and third readings in mid-November at the earliest, chief government whip Aumnuay Khlangpha said yesterday.

Meanwhile, Aumnuay’s deputy Paijit Sreewarakan said the ruling Pheu Thai Party would order its MPs to vote in support of the draft law instead of allowing them to vote freely.

Aumnuay, on the other hand, said the party had yet to discuss again on how MPs could vote.

Aumnuay said the House ad hoc committee vetting the amnesty bill would submit its report to House Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont later this month and it would be for Somsak to decide when to schedule the House meeting on the agenda. However, there were still some laws for the House to consider so it would be impossible for the amnesty bill to be deliberated on in the first week of November.

Pheu Thai MP Chavalit Vichayasuthi, secretary of the House ad hoc committee vetting the amnesty bill, said the panel would meet again tomorrow to approve the report and then submit to Somsak.

The amended version of the amnesty bill that would give blanket amnesty was deemed final by the committee. A total of 197 MPs and committee members who disagreed would be allowed to speak on the House floor.

Chavalit said that in his opinion, passing this amnesty bill is the right thing to do. Amendment of Article 309 of the Constitution, which is the provision protecting the conduct of coup-makers and the consequences, would be too complicated and would encounter strong opposition.

Paijit said the amnesty bill is a very important issue. Allowing MPs to vote freely might affect confidence in the government and the coalition parties. The party’s strategic committee also agreed to order a bloc vote.

Paijit said that although MPs from the red shirts group disagreed with the amended draft and supported the original draft submitted by MP Worachai Hema, they would not cause much trouble as there were not so many of them. The worst thing they could do would be to abstain from voting.

Democrat MP Ongart Klampai-boon said that the Pheu Thai-dominated committee last week expedited the meeting, turned down all altered clauses proposed by opposition MPs and the minority and refused to allow all opposition members to speak.

Some MPs had earlier expected the House meeting for the amnesty bill deliberation to be scheduled for November 6.

Meanwhile, International Court of Justice is scheduled to hand down its verdict on the Preah Vihear Temple’s vicinity on November 11. It is seen as a possible time bomb that could lead to domestic political unrest.

In a separate development, Thai Patriotic Front leader Chaiwat Sinsuwong said yesterday his group would rally outside the residence of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra this afternoon, calling on the government to reject the ICJ’s jurisdiction in the Preah Vihear case.

He said the decision to rally outside the PM’s house was made because it was so difficult to meet her, when she was supposed to listen to the voice of the people.

Green Politics coordinator Suriyasai Katasila, an anti-government activist, said key members of the People’s Alliance Reforming Thailand would join an all-day meeting at Thammasat University’s auditorium at the Tha Phrachan campus to evaluate the national situation and discuss anti-government activities.

The participants would join in a mourning ceremony to honour the late Supreme Patriarch before the start of the meeting.

Meanwhile, Uhtai Yodmanee, a leader of the Students’ and People’s Network for Thailand Reform said he would today file a complaint with police after protesters at the Urupong intersection were attacked with Ma Mui, an itchy plant, for the second time yesterday morning. A dozen of them had to be sent to hospital due to allergy. Uthai brought the bottles and containers of Ma Mui suspected to have been dropped from the expressway running above the rally site.

Nitithorn Lamlua, another leader, said the group might station some people on the expressway to guard the protesters.

Reds: No blanket amnesty

Posted by Nuttapon_S On October - 25 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Red shirt faction plans rally; aliance warns bill will aid corrupt politicians

RED SUNDAY, a faction of the red-shirt movement, will on Sunday organise a rally at the Ratchaprasong intersection to oppose the revised amnesty bill, its leader Sombat Boonngam-anong said yesterday.

“The rally will send a signal to the Pheu Thai Party about where the people who took part in the political struggle really stand on the amnesty issue,” he said.

Sombat said blanket amnesty, if granted to the political overseers who were in charge of the crackdown on the red-shirt rally at Ratchaprasong in 2010, would in effect deny the reds the legitimacy to continue their political struggle.

He said the red shirts would apply strong pressure on the ruling party to revert back to the original draft sponsored byPheu Thai MP Worachai Hema.

Worachai’s version was designed to provide amnesty to ordinary protesters.

Proponents of blanket amnesty had no justification to cite legal equality as a reason for absolving all individuals involved, because they neglected to address lese majeste offences, he said.

Pramon Sutivong, chairman of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, said his group would hold a press conference on Monday at Arnoma Hotel to declare its stance against the amnesty bill, which the group believes will provide blanket amnesty and cover those convicted of corruption.

Among the organisation’s members are prominent business-sector groups such as the Federation of Thai Industries and the Thai Chamber of Commerce, Pramon said. These groups had acknowledged his organisation’s stance and had not opposed it, Pramon said, so he hoped other such alliances would adopt the same stance.

The House ad hoc committee vetting the amnesty bill scheduled sessions yesterday(Thursday) and today to hear from members who disagree with its resolution, and to allow them to present proposals to alter the motion. Their comments would be put in a report, which will be presented to the House session during the second reading of the bill.

Committee chairman Samart Kaew-mechai, from the Pheu Thai Party, said he would not rush the meeting. However, he insisted there would be no extension of the meeting days on which the panel members could speak on altering the motion, and there would be no revision of the resolution the committee decided upon last week.

“The committee made this consideration based on the principle of forgiveness, and according to the Constitution. People who disagree can [propose to] alter the motion and let the House session decide,” he said.

Samart yesterday clarified that the revised amnesty bill would not absolve those tried and convicted for corruption. He said the bill would only apply to criminal offences related to the political mayhem.

Samart intervened to clarify after the Democrats and coalition lawmakers exchanged sharp words during the committee meeting.

The Democrats demanded that the revised bill be clear on two issues – the intention in the annulling the work of the Assets Examination Commission appointed after the 2006 coup, and the assets seizure of former prime ministerThaksin Shinawatra.

Payao Akahad, mother of Kamolket, a paramedic who died in the crackdown in 2010, yesterday submitted a letter to Samart. Her group, which includes relatives of the victims of the crackdown, called on the committee to amend a clause in the bill so that the people who ordered it do not get amnesty.

The group also called on the government to speed up assistance in obtaining bail for people detained during the incident, to delay the passage of the amnesty bill and to hold public hearings on the issue.

She said that unless the group received a response on its request, it would discuss the possibility of staging a rally.

Pheu Thai MP Weng Tojirakarn said he was sceptical that the revised amnesty bill could be enforced so long as coup-related immunity remained intact. Amnesty for those found guilty in coup-sponsored litigation might be voided by Article 309 of the Constitution, which upholds coup-related activities, he said.

He voiced concern that the bill in its revised version might be cancelled by the Constitution Court.

He also said amnesty would not pave way for the homecoming of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

“The amnesty will backfire by fanning opposition to unconditional absolution, which would, in turn, create unfavourable sentiment for Thaksin,” he said.

Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri played down a National Institute of Develo-pment Administration opinion poll in which a majority of respondents opposed revising the amnesty bill.

Amnesty legislation should be under the purview of lawmakers, who receive their mandate through elections, Chaikasem said.

The relevant parties should allow Parliament to do its job instead of taking to the streets, he said, adding that he was in favour of granting amnesty to all sides involved in the conflict.

While coup-sponsored probes into graft cases could be revived after granting amnesty to those involved, this might not be a good idea because then the absolution would have failed to end the animosity in Thai politics, he said.

Earlier this week, Thaksin told Thai-language daily Post Today he supported the amnesty bill as it would reset relations among all political players.

Thaksin said he was not thinking of his own benefit – being whitewashed under the law and getting his assets back – but the next generation’s.

Govt to ‘clarify’ amnesty draft

Posted by Rattana_S On October - 24 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Governors, chiefs ordered to explain ‘Democratic nature’ of amnesty measure

Re highlight: Not sure what is meant by “the government had no clear achievement”. Can be cut, the other 2 paras make sense without it.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.

No plans to shuffle Cabinet: Pheu Thai spokesman

Posted by Rattana_S On October - 3 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has not signalled for shuffling the Cabinet, Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said on Thursday.

Cabinet change is just a rumour designed to cause divisiveness within the ruling party,” he said.

Prompong was commenting on today’s news reports quoting unidentified sources that former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra had hinted at changing key portfolios within this month.

Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Vichet Kasemthongsri and Deputy Education Minister Sermsak Pongpanit are among those about to lose their job.

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