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Thais protest against possible amnesty for ex-PM Thaksin

Hundreds of Thais have protested amid reports that the government wants to bring back fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. A day-long rally is planned for Monday.

Deposed Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra

Thaksin Shinawatra has been sentenced for abuse of power

Opponents of the Thai government took to the streets on Friday to protest against a possible amnesty that would lead to the return of the ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thai protesters wave flags during a protest against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra

The 'Yellow Shirts' have threatened to take to the streets again

According to the Thai media, on Tuesday, ministers discussed a general amnesty that seems designed to allow Thaksin to come back to Thailand a free man. Reports said it would cover people who are older than 60 with less than three years in prison to serve. The 62-year-old was convicted of abuse of power in 2008 and fled the country before he could serve his two-year sentence.

The king's pardon

The opposition has criticized the proposals and accused the government of corruption and nepotism. Sakoltee Phattiyakul from the Democrat Party said that the amnesty had been proposed only to help "one particular person."

Fewer than 24 hours after the cabinet meeting, an anti-amnesty Facebook group had already accumulated 700 members and a signature campaign was underway.

The media reports said that the cabinet proposals would be sent to King Bhumibol Adulyadej to be endorsed ahead of his birthday on 5. December, when it is traditional for prisoners to be pardoned. Thaksin’s sister Yingluck, who did not attend the cabinet meeting, would also have to approve the amnesty.

Jost Pachaly from the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Bangkok said that Yingluck’s absence was a "conscious tactic to first wait for reactions and then change the bill accordingly." He added that the discussion was not "a good sign since Thailand has more urgent problems right now because of the floods."

Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej along with Queen Sirikit

Every year, King Bhumibol Adulyadej pardons a number of prisoners on his birthday

A 'yellow' tactic

Meanwhile, Gerhard Will from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs said that the outrage against the bill was a "yellow" strategy. "It's a chance for them to bring the Thaksin matter, which was put on the backburner because of the floods, back into the forefront." He said the opposition was hyping up the issue for its own purposes.

For years, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), also known as the "Red Shirts," whose support base is made up largely of the rural poor, have been locked in a power struggle with the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), or "Yellow Shirts," who are close to the urban elite and the military, which ousted Thaksin in 2006. Since then the political situation in Thailand has been very volatile, with violent episodes in Bangkok killing dozens last year, and society increasingly polarized.

Although, citizens have reacted fast to the amnesty plans, experts do not expect any armed confrontation in the near future. "The people have questions of immediate survival to deal with because of the floods," said Will. He said that logistical issues alone would prevent the "Yellow Shirts" from organizing any mass protests in the capital.

Author: Rodion Ebbighausen / act
Editor: Shamil Shams

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