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Move for Thaksin amnesty

THAILAND: Cabinet has endorsed a controversial amnesty decree that could pave the way for the return of fugitive ex-Premier Thaksin Shinawatra, local media said Wednesday.

Wednesday 16 November 2011, 12:28PM

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is Mr Thaksin’s younger sister, has yet to confirm or comment on a move that already attracted harsh criticism from the opposition.

The draft, which needs to be approved by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, would grant an amnesty to “convicts who are at least 60 years old and are sentenced to under three years in jail”, according to the Bangkok Post.

Amnesties are granted each year on the King’s birthday on December 5.

Mr Thaksin, who was ousted by the army in a 2006 coup, is 62 years old and lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai to avoid a two-year prison term for corruption.

Political novice Ms Yingluck, 44, led the Pheu Thai Party to victory in a July election on the back of her brother’s popularity among Thailand’s rural poor and is widely seen as his political proxy.

She was absent from Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting because she was visiting a flood-stricken province, reports said.

The return of Mr Thaksin, a deeply-divisive figure in the country, would likely anger his foes in the Bangkok-based elites in the military, palace and bureaucracy and could spark further turmoil after years of violent protests.

Laguna Golf Phuket

It would also come at a politically-sensitive time for Ms Yingluck who has faced strong criticism in recent weeks for her handling of Thailand’s worst flood crisis in half a century.

The reported amnesty plan was immediately criticised by the opposition Democrats, whose own amnesty decree last year excluded corruption convictions.

“It shows that what they have done is intended to help one person,” Democrat deputy party spokesman Sakoltee Phattiyakul told AFP, predicting the move would make for a “tense” political situation in the kingdom.

“Because even though the floods are not yet over, the Cabinet still approved the decree,” he said.

After his sister’s election win, Thaksin said setting foot back in Thailand was not a priority, but he has previously expressed hopes to be at his daughter’s wedding in December. – AFP



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