Time has an article with the headline “Thailand’s Amnesty Bill Unites Political Foes Against Government”, but just below is the sub-heading ” The red shirts and the yellow shirts are agreeing on something for once—and that is, that neither side wants to forgive the other”. Some excerpts:
Yellow-shirt sympathizers like Jintana are opposed to the legislation because it would quash the corruption conviction of exiled former Thai Prime Minster Thaksin Shinawatra — a divisive figure, whose ousting in a military coup in 2006 sparked years of street rallies, mass-sieges and sporadic bloodletting. “We hate corrupt government and we hate Thaksin Shinawatra,” explains another 40-year-old protester called Amy.
However, those on the other side of Thailand’s color-coded political divide — the red-shirts — are also vehemently opposed, but for very different reasons. They want justice for comrades killed in the 2010 crackdown. The prospect of general amnesty has them fearing that justice will never be served.
But now these grassroots political groups have formed an unholy alliance against the amnesty bill. The yellow-shirts — generally urban royalists and nationalists joined under the banner of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) — fear the return of their nemesis Thaksin. The red-shirts — rural poor known as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) — want those responsible for the 2010 bloodshed to be held accountable.
BP: Look it is clear that many people – polls show a clear majority – are opposed to the revised Amnesty Bill, but there is no real alliance. In 2006 and 2008, there was a real alliance. You had the PAD which was the unified protest group against Thaksin and wanted his government/government of pro-Thaksin party removed from office respectively. Yes, there were differences in opinion, but they protested together as a single group. This time it is quite different.
1. BP has blogged extensively on the breakdown on the relations between the Democrats and the PAD – see this post from a few months ago – and soon after that the PAD leaders quit the organization and stated that “the Democrat Party showed that it was only aiming at discrediting the government and, like other political parties, hoped to use other groups for its own political gains, the statement added”. Essentially, the PAD is now a defunct organization.
However, the PAD-aligned TV station, ASTV Manager, still exists and when the Democrats started protesting on Thursday night, ASTV Manager was broadcasting live, but then on Saturday ASTV Manager announced in a news article with the headline “ASTV ceases to broadcast from Samsen! Bored with the Dems [who] are just good at campaigning; Not sincere in leading protest” ( ASTV เลิกถ่ายสดสามเสน! เซ็ง ปชป.ดีแต่หาเสียง ไม่จริงใจนำมวลชน).
BP: Essentially, the ASTV complaint is the Democrats want to focus on promoting themselves and to increase their popularity, but not look at more systematic reform so further broadcasting would not create any advantage. Former PAD spokesman Panthep further said that they gave a chance to the Democrats, but the truth of what they want has come out and is clear.
2. Also, there are different protest movements. The Democrats are at Samsen Railway Station (about 500 metres from Democrat Party HQ); two other anti-protest groups were at Uruphong intersection and Lumpini Park respectively although the Lumpini Park protesters, now led by former PAD leader Chamlong, are moving to Uruphong to join those at Uruphong. However, for now, the Samsen and Uruphong crowd are not combining. To really put pressure on the government, all these groups need to reunite.
3. Aside from the “man-on-the-street” quote, if you look at the Democrat Party Web site and you will see the focus against the Amnesty Bill is that it absolves corruption and not on the fact that the Amnesty Bill absolves deaths – see this press statement today as an example. The largely circulated anti-Amnesty bill petition which has more than 390,000 signatures only focuses on the corruption aspect with no mention of absolving people of murder.
Whereas for the reds that oppose the Amnesty Bill, their opposition it is that it absolves Suthep and Abhisit. These are significant differences. For those reds who are strongly against the Amnesty Bill, it would be difficult for them to join the Democrats (from an informal survey of reds who are more liberal and are not reds because of Thaksin, they are disheartened/annoyed/upset/disappointed with Puea Thai over the revised Amnesty Bill, but they won’t join the Democrats and the more the Democrats talk on the stage, it is even less likely they will join the Democrats). This means there is no real alliance and just a question of how many supporters the Democrats can mobilise on their own.