Amnesty bill heads to the Senate, what is likely to happen?
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Amnesty bill heads to the Senate, what is likely to happen?

The Senate was originally intended to deliberate the Amnesty Bill on November 11, but the Senate Speaker moved up consideration to November 8. However, only 69 Senators attended (short of the 75 needed for quorum) the meeting on November 8 so the meeting was pushed back to November 11.

BP: In total, there are currently 149 Senators (73 Appointed; 76 Elected) meaning there were 80 Senators who didn’t attend on November 8. Of those 80 Senators, 61 were Appointed Senators (this is BP’s count from the list of 80 provided by Matichon). Of course, the most likely reason that  the Appointed Senators (61 out of the 73) and some anti-government Elected Senators didn’t attend the Senate meeting on Friday was that the ICJ decision in relation to Preah Vihear is being handed down today (more on that soon) and that is a point of likely conflict (former PAD leader Chamlong  said today the PAD won’t respect the ICJ ruling).

There are 4 possibilities for the Senate today:

1. The Senate lacks a quorum again before voting on the Amnesty Bill occurs.
2. The Senate agrees with the Amnesty Bill
3. The Senate completely disagrees with the Amnesty Bill and rejects it (it is withheld and sent back to the House)
4. The Senate amends the Amnesty Bill and it is sent back to the House.

For (1), only 6 more Senators were needed for a quorum. The Senate meeting was moved up suddenly and it is understood many Senators were meeting constituents and away on trips so perhaps they didn’t feel their attendance was necessary as it was only a boycott by the Group of 40 Senators – with many of these Senators actually being in Bangkok – that caused the Senate to lack a quorum and so it is unlikely any boycott by the Group of 40 Senators will matter as there will be enough Elected Senators. Hence, (1) seems unlikely. This includes a walkout by the Group of 40 Senators before the vote.

For (2), based on statements by the Senate Speaker and Elected Senators close to the government, (2) also seems unlikely. Would the anti-Thaksin/government Senators vote in favor of the Bill to spite the government? What would be the point of that?

For (3), this seems the most likely outcome as it could be over quickly – although from what BP understands from reports on twitter (an example is from this Thai Rath reporter), the Senators are currently trying to delay proceedings until at least after the ICJ decision is handed down – and it would send the bill back to the House. Having said that  the House can’t resubmit the Bill or reintroduce another Bill on a similar matter for 180 days. This would kill the matter for another 6 months and is the cleanest and quickest way, but the Senate deliberation may not be quick as BP is sure many Senators will use the venue to attack the government. Then again with Suthep’s deadline of 6pm for the Amnesty Bill to be killed, he should be asking the Senate why won’t they kill it.

For (4), there have been suggestions that an amendment, back to the original wording proposed by Worachai is possible. The Nation:

Before the Pheu Thai announcement, a number of coalition and opposition MPs made a bipartisan stand, urging the Senate to revise the amnesty bill instead of killing it. The senators should vote to pass the first reading of the bill so that they could vet and remove contentious amnesty provisions, Democrat MP Alongkorn Ponlaboot said.

Pheu Thai MP Chavalit Wichayasuthi said he agreed with Alongkorn’s proposal. Revising the bill instead of discarding it would mean the legislative procedures for amnesty would not be in vain, he said.

Pheu Thai MP Samart Kaewmechai said the bill should be salvaged by allowing the upper chamber to revise controversial provisions as deemed necessary.

“Defeating the bill would not end the differences over amnesty, hence revising the bill to suit society is a better option,” he said.

He reminded the senators that should they defeat the bill, the House would still be obliged to reactivate the amnesty debate in six months as per the Constitution.

BP: An amendment would kill the revised wording and if the amendment was to the Worachai wording it would help the “normal” protesters, but would the Senators do the government such a favor? Most likely not. Failure to help the non-leaders would be a sore point between reds and the government so BP views the Senate will probably not amend the Bill, but there is a moderate chance of it happening. The government also wants the Senate to act quickly over the Bill which favors killing it rather than amending it.

In conclusion, see a very small chance for either (1) or (2) with (3) being the most likely, but still a chance for (4).