A review of the Thai Reconciliation Bills
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A review of the Thai Reconciliation Bills

There are four different reconciliation bills (AKA amnesty bills). The two main ones are those proposed by Gen. Sonthi, former coup leader and currently MP for the Mathabum party in parliament and a second bill proposed by red shirt leader Nattawut. You can find an explanation and the text of the Gen. Sonthi version of the Reconciliation Bill from the parliament site as a PDF from here and of Nattuwat’s version as a PDF here. This post will only seek to explain the Bills and not interpret whether the provisions are constitutional or not.  If BP doesn’t get time and you can read Thai, see Veerapat’s assessment of their legality as published by Kom Chad Luek.

Sections 1 has the name of the Act. Section 2 states the Act will come into force the day after publication in the government gazette.

Section 3 of Gen Sonthi’s draft is summarized below: Any acts related to political protests [การชุมนุมทางการเมือง] or expressions of political opinion [การแสดงออกทางการเมือง] between September 15, 2005 and May 10, 2011 that were deemed illegal will no longer be illegal and the persons who committed those acts will be freed from legal responsibility for their acts

These acts are (1) various acts that arose out of political protests or expression of political opinions including violation of laws prohibiting anti-government gatherings, statements or announcements, resisting the carrying out of acts of government officials [การต่อสู้ขัดขืนการดำเนินการของเจ้าหน้าที่ของรัฐ] or other forms of protests which affect other people physically or their assets that arose out of political protests or expression of political opinions, and (2) various acts by government officials or others involved in preventing or suppressing political protests, expression of political opinions or any related acts.

Nattawut’s Section 3 differs as it excludes terrorist acts and acts causing death  [“การกระทำข้างต้นไม่รวมถึงการกระทำอันเป็นความผิดฐานการก่อการร้ายและความผิดต่อชีวิต”.

BP: Under Sonthi’s version, all protesters and soldiers get off, but there are many things open to interpretation, such as what does ‘arose out of the political protests’ means. On its face, it treats everything involved with the yellow and shirt protests as not being illegal, but this is still open to interpretation on how broadly it will be interpreted and how related to protests such acts must be.

For Nattuwat’s version, those who commit terrorist acts and acts causing death won’t get off. This is the main difference although the wording throughout does differ slightly and this may affect how broad the amnesty is for some offences.

You will see the reference to ‘expressions of political opinion’, does this include those who have been prosecuted under Section 112? It is very much open to interpretation. One Puea Thai MP is quoted (anonymously) as saying it will include those prosecuted under 112 (presumably for the reason of giving encouragement to reds in jail). One Democrat MP states the Reconciliation Bill covers 112 crimes (although he presumably states this to criticize the government because he views it is a plan to overthrow the monarchy). It will all depend on who interprets this Act. In theory, it could apply to 112 crimes although in practice it may not or it may be limited to only some lese majeste cases.

Section 4: Once this Act comes into force, for any person who is under investigation for acts committed per Article 3 the person who has authority to investigate shall suspend the investigation. If the case is in court, then the prosecutor must withdraw the case. If the person has already been convicted, then the person must be deemed as never having been convicted. If the person is serving a penalty, then the penalty must end and the person released.

Section 5: Any person affected by the acts of an organisation appointed under orders of the Council for National Security, or the council’s chairman, which seized power on September 19, 2006, will not be considered suspects or wrongdoers and the statement in Article 4 shall apply. All related organisations will treat the persons affected according to the rule of law.

BP: As independent legal scholar Verapat notes, the explanation of the Reconciliation Bill will erase the effects of the coup and states that Thaksin will come back to face the justice system again. However, Verapat states it is unclear whether this will happen or not because the Attorney-General or an entity who has power to file a case may view that there is no need for a new case….

Section 6: The revocation of the political rights of former executives of a dissolved political party will end and those persons will be deemed as those whose  rights had never been revoked.

BP: This applies to the 111 Thai Rak Thai members – although the 5 year ban is over, this Section 6 will wipe the slate clean as they were not banned – but also to the executives of PPP, Chart Thai, and Matichima banned in December 2009. End result is that none of them will be banned EXCEPT of course they have been banned for another reason.

Section 7: Any actions according to this Act will not be considered as ending a person’s right to take civil action to seek compensation for any damages caused by people whose responsibility has been lifted.

BP: This principally allows person who has been injured or a family of someone killed to sue for compensation, e.g. any red shirts who have been injured in the March-May 2010 protests.

h/t to this article for which the translations has been adapted from.