The anti-government United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship’s (UDD) campaign for a royal pardon for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has caused concerns for the Thai Government and the general public. The Government has responded to the UDD’s campaign by proactively informing the public of regulations and procedures of a royal pardon.
Earlier this week, the Faculties of Law and Political Science of Chulalongkorn University arranged a debate to clarify laws and regulations on the petitioning of a royal pardon. The debate was attended by academics and highly-respected figures from various occupations. Secretary-general to the Education Council, Associate Professor Thongthong Chantharangsu, said during the debate that there were 2 types of civil petitions submitted to His Majesty the King – the petitions for a royal pardon and the complaint petitions. Civil petitions have bound Thai Kings and their subjects since the Sukhothai era. However, the academic said a royal pardon could not overrule a court’s verdict.
The professor further explained that those who petitioned for a royal pardon must do good deeds for the country in the past or currently suffer from illnesses or hardships. The Department of Corrections will gather all petitions of prisoners and submit them to the Ministry of Justice for consideration and comment. The ministry will then submit the petitions to His Majesty the King who will decide whether to grant a royal pardon. The Bureau of the Royal Household will return all petitions to the ministry each time a new justice minister is appointed for the re-evaluation of the petitions.
Apart from a royal pardon for a criminal, people who receive disciplinary and civil punishments can also petition for a royal pardon. But a royal pardon does not take place easily as His Majesty the King is a constitutional monarch who has limited powers.
Assoc Prof Thongthong remarked that political problems must be solved by political methods, not by the monarch’s powers. He urged those seeking a royal pardon to exercise their discretion and try to leave the monarchy out of their problems. He also encouraged all Thai people to take the matter seriously into consideration as it might lead to other problems in Thai society.
RED SHIRTS’ SIGNATURE CAMPAIGN: Petition damned as divisive ploy
Move drags the monarchy into politics: govt. Army alert amid ‘plans of unrest’
After an initial delay, Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government has started a campaign to counter the red shirts’ move to collect 3 million signatures for the petition of a royal pardon for ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The government has instructed state-run media outlets to remind the public about the impropriety of involving the monarchy in politics, PM’s Office Minister Satit Wongnongtaey said yesterday.
“The issue of a royal pardon has caused so much confusion, and organisers of the signature campaign have been flouting the law,” he said.
Satit added that the red shirts were using their move to seek a royal pardon as a pretext for deepening social and political divisions. He urged the public to be cautious, or else they might play an unwitting hand in miring the monarchy in a political game.
Red-shirt leaders Jatuporn Promphan, Veera Musigapong and Natthawut Saikua have vowed to collect 3 million signatures and present the petition to the Royal Household Bureau or the Office of the Private Secretary to His Majesty the King next Friday. The move is seen as yet another attempt by Thaksin’s supporters to weaken the revered monarchy.
Thaksin was found guilty in absentia of corruption over the Ratchadaphisek land scam and sentenced to two years in prison last October. He fled the country last August and has been a fugitive ever since.
Under Thai law, criminals can only petition for royal amnesty after they have served time for a certain period and expressed repentance. Thaksin has not served any time in prison or admitted to any wrongdoing. Instead, all he has done is vow to return and lead the country again.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Chaovarat Chan-weerakul told all provincial governors and district chiefs to set up tables in front of their offices from today and persuade people who had signed the petition to withdraw their signatures.
“Anyone who wishes to withdraw his or her signature can do so. But they must come in person with their ID cards, in order to prevent any confusion,” the minister said.
Yesterday, national police chief General Patcharawat Wongsuwan and National Intelligence Agency (NIA) chief Adul Kowattana briefed Prime Minister Abhisit about the movement for amnesty. Adul said in reality, fewer than 1 million people had signed the petition, because the process of authenticating names, backgrounds and profiles was far too complicated, while some had changed their minds.
The NIA believes the red shirts will probably start creating political chaos from next Monday – the day Abhisit turns 45.
“I don’t think we can stop the red shirts from rallying or submitting a petition. They can allow them to do that, but I’m concerned they’re trying to bring the monarchy into politics. They’re free to attack me, but they should not touch the monarchy,” Abhisit said.
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan yesterday ordered the armed forces to monitor the signature campaign.
He said the armed forces were obligated to uphold the monarchy and that the pardon petition was affecting the country’s revered institution.
Prawit ordered military leaders to ensure peace in society and safeguard the monarchy.
By The Nation
Published on July 31, 2009