Lawmakers back amnesty to facilitate reconciliation but PAD sceptical

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Key lawmakers yesterday voiced support for the government’s amnesty idea for political offences, although the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) remains opposed to it.

Pheu Thai Party MP Peerapan Palusuk said his main opposition party would respond favourably to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s call for a charter rewrite and amnesty to pave way for reconciliation.

“I believe an amnesty would ease tensions, because the root cause of the turmoil is injustice inflicted by the 2006 coup,” Peerapan said.

He said a review of amnesty could be carried out at the same time as the charter rewrite, which was designed to improve the political system.

Regarding the opposition’s stand on constitutional amendments, he said his party wanted to restore, either partially or fully, the suspended 1997 charter, in order to use it as the model for any rewrite.

He said that certain provisions in the 2007 Constitution should be amended, because they had become a hindrance to both the political system and the country’s administration.

Provisions to be amended should include Article 237 on party dissolution and Article 190 on international agreements, Peerapan said.

He said his party no longer demanded cancellation of the amnesty granted to coup leaders and coup-related activities.

“It’s a moot point to argue about coup leaders now, since the lifting of amnesty cannot be enforced retroactively,” he said.

Faction leader Somsak Thepsuthin of Bhum Jai Thai Party said the amnesty for banned party executives would be a step towards ending the political polarisation.

“It is futile to try and fault one another while fuelling the perception of double standards for punishing one side but not the other,” he said.

Chart Thai Pattana Party leader Chumpol Silapa-archa said his coalition party soon would submit a list of charter provisions deemed in need of rewrite.

He said he wanted to improve the electoral system for MPs and senators and that the mandate for independent organisations should be reviewed with an eye to enhancing democratic principles instead of working like a bureaucracy.

Bhum Jai Thai Party leader Chaovarat Chanweerakul said he completely agreed with the prime minister about limiting the amnesty to political offences and excluding criminal wrongdoing.

Acting Puea Pandin Party leader Charnchai Chairungrueng said the coalition partners met with the prime minister last Friday and agreed to revamp the electoral system for MPs and senators.

Senate Speaker Prasobsook Boondech voiced optimism the charter rewrite would be a success and that the Senate and parties concerned could complete their recommendations on amendments within the two-week deadline.

PAD spokesman Suriyasai Katasila said the yellow shirts doubted whether the idea of a charter rewrite would be effective in forging reconciliation.

“This idea about granting amnesty to banned party executives has raised suspicions that political reform is simply a pretext to bring about self-serving gains among politicians,” he said.

Suriyasai said he remained in the dark on how to distinguish political violations from criminal ones for those involved in the turmoil.

He said he suspected the amnesty, if granted, would be a first step towards demanding the expunging of criminal convictions related to the turmoil.

Election Commission member Prapun Naigowit said he attributed the turmoil to opposing views on politics as manifested by ideological and power struggles.

He said political polarisation happened as a consequence of those sorts of struggles and not because of the enforcement of charter provisions.

He called on politicians to reconcile via parliamentary means instead of taking the fight to the streets.

By The Nation
Published on April 21, 2009

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