Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Amnesty for Thai Red Shirts?

Red shirt supporters gather outside the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road to try to block a bus from taking eight red shirt leaders and three security guards charged with terrorism to the Bangkok Remand Prison for further detention after they were denied bail on Tuesday.

A proposal to grant amnesty to Thai protesters who took part in recent anti-government rallies in violation of emergency rule is stirring controversy and highlighting the difficulty in reconciling a divided nation writes HS report today.

The proposal was made by Thailand's equivalent of the U.S. FBI, and followed a government call for reconciliation after the protests ended last month in riots, arson and clashes between soldiers and shadowy gunmen.

In all, 89 people were killed and about 2,000 wounded in the violence that raised fears for the stability and prospects for growth in Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy.

The red shirt protest movement is largely made up of rural and urban poor supporters of self-exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a former telecoms tycoon who was ousted in a 2006 military coup and later convicted of corruption.

Analysts say the government, which is opposed to Thaksin and his allies, has to tread carefully as it seeks to push ahead its reconciliation plan with any move being scrutinised and liable to criticism by one, or even both, sides. The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) said it was considering amnesty for rank-and-file protesters who violated the state of emergency imposed during the crisis.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said at the weekend there was no plan to negotiate with terrorists, adding: "But there is no plan to hunt down those who were peaceful."

Criminal Court on Tuesday denied bails for 11 red-shirts leaders charged with terrorism. Court said that the suspects could escape if they were granted bails.

Reporter's notes

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