Parliament chaos over reconciliation debate
The Thai parliament was thrown into chaos for a second day Thursday, as lawmakers clashed over plans to push through a reconciliation debate that threatens to widen the country's bitter divides.
Thursday 31 May 2012, 09:17PM
Proposals, ostensibly aimed at healing the rifts that have seen Thailand shaken repeatedly by bloody civil unrest since a coup in 2006, have provoked fury among opposition MPs who fear they will open the door for the return of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Police were forced to step in for a second day running, surrounding the house speaker in an effort to protect him as MPs threw bundles of paper at him after he announced that the debate would go ahead early Friday.
The incident, widely broadcast on Thai television, overshadowed an address by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra -- Thaksin's sister -- to the prestigious World Economic Forum on East Asia that is being held in Bangkok.
The fracas within parliament has been accompanied by a show of strength on the streets outside from thousands of ultra-royalist, anti-Thaksin "Yellow Shirts" and their affiliates, whose protests have helped topple three governments.
The Yellows have warned they will try to enter parliament in an effort to disrupt a possible vote, although it is not clear whether they will carry out the threat.
"Please be patient and trust us, when our time comes when the D-day comes, we will not lose," said Panthep Puapongpan, spokesman for the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), the Yellow's official name.
The PAD are powerful players in Thailand's colour-coded politics, backed by the Bangkok-based elite and arch-rivals of Thaksin's "Red Shirts", whose massive rallies against a previous government in 2010 ended in a bloody crackdown.
The four reconciliation proposals that are up for debate have threatened to further polarise politics in the country, that has become increasingly divided in the years since Thaksin was toppled by royalist generals.
Three of the potential bills -- among them one by former coup general Sonthi Boonyaratgalin -- include amnesties that some fear could be used to usher back the divisive former premier, who lives abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption and terrorism charges relating to the 2010 violence.
The Yellows are historically close to the opposition Democrat party, which came to power after 2008 rallies by the movement that culminated with the seizure of two Bangkok airports, stranding more than 300,000 travellers and causing crippling economic damage.