Thai opposition leader in '2-for-1' offer

News Desk in Bangkok/The Nation
Asia News Network

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - If Thaksin is not given amnesty, ex-PM and deputy would accept same fate.

Thailand's opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has offered to disqualify himself and his former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban from any future amnesty if the same measure applies to ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra, while other people involved in the political conflict are set free.

He clearly was trying to emphasise that the government's push for reconciliation was ultimately aimed at whitewashing Thaksin's wrongdoings.

Abhisit was responding to a challenge from Pheu Thai MP and red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan that two representatives from each side - Abhisit and Suthep from the Democrat Party, and Jatuporn and Pheu Thai MP and red-shirt leader Natthawut Saikua - should be exempted from any amnesty in the future.

"Let's do it this way. I offer two in exchange for one. Do not grant amnesty to me and Suthep, as well as Thaksin. I like this better," Abhisit said during the House of Representatives debate on reconciliation proposals on Thursday night.

The lower house debated whether to accept the proposals from the ad hoc House committee on national reconciliation and to forward them to the Cabinet for further action.

Abhisit, who served as prime minister in the previous government, and his then-deputy Suthep have been accused by the red shirts of "ordering the massacre of protesters" in the political unrest and riots in early 2010.

More than 90 people were killed during more than two months of street protests and occupations in Bangkok by the pro-Thaksin red shirts between March and May 2010. Among those killed were soldiers, police, protesters, passers-by, local residents and foreign journalists.

During the debate, Abhisit said rule of law should be upheld and that by offering general amnesty to everyone - as proposed by the House panel and backed by the government MPs - more conflict would be created.

"Don't try to involve Parliament to solve the problem of people who do not sincerely want to reconcile," Abhisit said. "Don't create a condition for new conflict. That's not a way to reconciliation. If there is sincerity for reconciliation, we the opposition will fully support the move."

Earlier in the debate, Jatuporn remarked that Abhisit once said he would not reconcile with "the terrorists" - people who wreaked havoc in Bangkok in 2010. Jatuporn, led the red-shirt protest, told the House meeting that his side also would not reconcile with "the murderers", referring to Abhisit and Suthep.

Abhisit responded by cautioning that "the terrorists" and "the murderers" would end up being in the same group of people. He was referring to reports that heavily armed men mingled among the red-shirt protesters.

Pheu Thai Party leader Yongyuth Wichaidit yesterday described Abhisit's challenge as "just rhetoric that cannot be put into action". "In law, general amnesty must be applied to everyone and nobody should be excluded," said Yongyuth, who is also deputy prime minister and interior minister.

Figures close to Thaksin could not be reached yesterday for comments about the matter.

After two days of debate in the lower house, 307 MPs early yesterday voted to support the reconciliation proposals and to forward them to the Cabinet for further action. There were two abstentions. The opposition Democrat MPs refused to vote in protest at what they described as a rush to have the measures passed as soon as possible.

Chief opposition whip Jurin Laksanavisit said the government missed a chance to avoid negative consequences of the rush by ignoring a suggestion from King Prajadhipok's Institute that broader debate of reconciliation was needed to prevent a new round of conflict.