Thai government backs down over amnesty
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Thai government backs down over amnesty

After yesterday’s post had the Prime Minister signalling a softening of position of the Amnesty Bill and the Senate Speaker stating that they will disagree with the Bill and send it back to the Lower House.

Reuters:

“I reject this bill and will send it back to the lower house. We will not accept this amnesty and the Senate majority agrees with me,” Senate Speaker Nikom Wairatpanij told Reuters.

Some analysts read her remarks as a sign of retreat after Thaksin, who is widely believed to be pulling the strings of government from abroad, misjudged the political temperature.

“This is a sure signal that Thaksin wants to reverse and back out. Yingluck chose to act quickly and sent a strong message to the Senate before her party’s image is left in tatters,” Siripan Nogsuan Sawasdee, a political analyst at Chulalongkorn University, told Reuters.

Opposition leaders heading the protests in Bangkok have vowed to continue their occupation of the city’s Democracy Monument area until the bill is thrown out.

“We cannot trust the government and their words until this law is withdrawn from parliament. We will stay until that happens,” former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of the opposition Democrat Party, said in a speech to protesters at Democracy Monument.

BP: Today, the government went further and has backed down completely (am unsure what relevance a statement made by one MP Ja Prasit yesterday that that the government will wait the 180 days and then push through the Amnesty Bill once it rejected by the Senate).

First, the Bangkok Post:

The Pheu Thai Party will not resubmit the amended amnesty bill to parliament if the Senate rejects the legislation on Nov 11, party spokesman Prompong Nopparit said on Wednesday.

After tomorrow’s meeting of the House of Representatives, he said, Pheu Thai would hold a meeting to discuss the political situation and the amnesty bill.

Second,  Matichon reported that the government whips had agreed to withdraw all 6 Amnesty and Reconciliation Bills from the House.

Third, a formal statement issued by Puea Thai about the Amnesty Bill which BP has summarized below:

Puea Thai wants to announce that if the Senate disagrees with this law and sends it back to the House then Puea Thai affirms that all Puea Thai MPs won’t bring this Bill up for consideration again and will allow this Bill to lapse in accordance with the Constitution. In addition, Puea Thai has requested its MPs to quickly withdraw all other draft laws which have contents related to amnesty which are before the House (“พรรคเพื่อไทยขอแถลงว่า ถ้าวุฒิสภาลงมติไม่รับหลักการร่างกฎหมายฉบับนี้ และส่งคืนมายังสภาผู้แทนราษฎร พรรคเพื่อไทยขอยืนยันว่า สมาชิกสภาผู้แทนราษฎรพรรคเพื่อไทยทั้งหมด จะไม่หยิบยกร่าง พ.ร.บ. นี้ขึ้นมาพิจารณาใหม่ และจะปล่อยให้กฎหมายฉบับนี้ตกไปตามบทบัญญัติของรัฐธรรมนูญ นอกจากนั้นพรรคเพื่อไทยจะขอให้สมาชิกผู้แทนราษฎรของพรรค ไปถอนร่างกฎหมายที่มีเนื้อหาเกี่ยวกับการนิรโทษกรรมฉบับอื่นๆ ทั้งหมดที่ค้างอยู่ในสภาผู้แทนราษฎรโดยเร็ว”)

BP: This is fairly clear. Now we just to wait to see whether the Senate formally rejects the Bill or amends it to the wording of the original Worachai Bill (which doesn’t include Thaksin, Suthep, Abhisit, and those who ordered killings). The Senate is meant to consider the Amnesty Bill on Monday, but some Senators have been pushing for it to be considered this Friday.

At what point will the Democrats end their rally? What will be the political fall-out for Puea Thai particularly its relations with the red shirts?

On the former, from what the Democrats have been saying they may be on the streets until next week or at least until the Senate has rejected the Bill.

On the latter, will look at that this more in-depth in a subsequent post, but it seems most reds, who are more aligned with the movement on economic grounds and who were supporters of Thaksin from the beginning because of their like of TRT and various pro-Thaksin party government policies, will unlikely switch their votes. A number of other reds will still stay with the party, but will certainly be more wary of the party. They could be persuaded to vote for other parties or to not even vote at all. Others will vote for other parties, such as Chuwit or any one new third party that could arise, although it is hard to see the Democrats picking up support from ex-reds.

They Democrats will likely pick up some support from those in the “middle” who are neither yellow nor red, but for various reasons voted for Puea Thai at the last election. The damage is unlikely to be fatal for Puea Thai, but the Democrats who were struggling to make traction with their various rallies over the past months and hurting themselves with their inflammatory and insulting rhetoric have had life breathed into them by Thaksin’s attempt to push for a quick amnesty. While actual protest numbers at the rallies was never very high compared with the PAD in 2006 and 2008 or the reds in 2009 and 2010, the problem was actual strong support for the bill was very limited. This was not a Bill where you have a strong vocal group against and a strong vocal group for it. It was a colossal miscalculation by Thaksin on par with the Shin share sale debacle in 2006. At least, this time, albeit quite late, the government has backed down.

To repair some of the damage look for Puea Thai to push harder, especially with their rhetoric over the next year on other issues such as a fully Elected Senate and other issues. These  issues will attract vocal opposition, but are issues which mostly unites the reds and other Puea Thai voters. Puea Thai will likely be more negative and making the case against the Democrats in a bid to get its supporters back. We will have to wait and see whether it works.