Yesterday’s Phuket rally at Provincial Hall drew some 2,000 protesters. Organised by the Rak Phuket Group, it featured speeches by Phuket’s Democrat Party List MP Anchalee Vanich Thepabutra, Krabi MP Arkom Engchuan and many more.
Bunsuppa Thanthai, president of Rak Phuket Group, told The Phuket News, “It’s about [people’s] feeling that the way this government governs is not right. The system of the majority makes the decision is not right.
“What they have done has created disharmony in the country. The rule of law in this country will not work anymore [if amnesties are granted to people convicted of crimes].
“Our next move will depend on [the actions of] the group in Bangkok; some Phuket people have gone to Bangkok to join the protest there.”
The bill would allow former PM Taksin Shinawatra and other convicted politicians living in exile to return to the country without fear of being locked up. Mr Thaksin was convicted in 2008, in absentia, of abusing his powers over the sale of land by a state agency to his then-wife, Pojaman. He was sentenced to two years in jail but by then had broken bail and was living in exile.
Thaksin’s supporters have always maintained that his conviction was politically motivated.
The bill, with its blanket terms, would also let off the hook politicians at the other end of the political spectrum, such as Democrat leaders Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban, who have been accused of murder for their parts in the Red Shirt violence of April and May 2010.
Abhisit and Suthep, however, have rejected the amnesty, believing in their innocence. They, too, claim that the charges against them are politically motivated
Although the bill has been passed by the lower house, where the ruling Pheu Thai Party has an absolute majority, it must still get majority support when the Senate meets next Monday to examine the bill, before it can be passed to HM the King for his signature, and become law.
The Phuket protest echoes much larger gatherings in Bangkok today (November 4) led by a variety of groups mostly allied to the Democrats and the nationalist “Yellow Shirts”. The Bangkok protest is expected to draw tens of thousands – possibly hundreds of thousands – to voice opposition to the bill.
The Bangkok Post reported today (November 4) that 87.2 per cent of the respondents in a survey conducted by Abac Poll think the Amnesty Bill is intended to absolve Thaksin of wrongdoing, not to bring about reconciliation.