Unveiling their bold initiative, the Move Forward Party submitted a comprehensive amnesty bill on a fine Thursday that sought to encompass all political protestors, dating back to February 2006. Aiming to stitch together the cracked unity of the nation, party leader Chaithawat Tulathon described the bill’s purpose as condoning the multitude of political protestors who faced legal consequences for their involvement in political demonstrations since the inception of protests incited by the People’s Alliance for Democracy on Feb 11, 2006, against the government of Thaksin Shinawatra.
Optimism emanated from the opposition party as they projected this sweeping amnesty to embrace countless protestors previously chastened by sundry laws linked to their politically driven activities, giving outspoken rationalization through Mr Chaithawat. The party holds a staunch belief in the potential of their initiative to mend societal peace, harmony, and unity by liberating individuals involved in past political demonstrations.
The daring proposal forwarded to the Parliament’s president Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, suggests forming a dedicated committee with the task of distinguishing the particular offences fitting for amnesty. Yet, highlighting their discerning stance, the proposal asserts that it would not extend leniency towards government officials guilty of excessive authority or blatant overreactions against these demonstrations.
Mr Chaithawat voiced his conviction that the ratification of this bill hinges on the concerted efforts of all political parties. The country has evidently been a theater of tumultuous political demonstrations over the course of the past 17 years, with significant incidents marking the timeline.
Beginning with the pivotal PAD (People’s Alliance for Democracy) protests, the ‘yellow shirts’, systematically disrupting Thaksin’s administration, culminated in the coup overthrowing his majority government in September 2006. More unrest followed when Thaksin-aligned government re-emerged in December 2007 from democratic elections. This reignited PAD’s relentless uprising ending in their infamous week-long seizure of the Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports,exacting a dire toll of 3 billion baht on the national economy.
The unraveling narrative saw the People’s Power Party dissolve in a landmark ruling by the Constitutional Court in December 2008, paving the way for a Democrat-led transition of power. In retaliation, the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), the ‘red shirts’, loyal to Thaksin, sparked off a colossal demonstration in 2010, met with an austere military reaction, leaving the nation reeling with a heavy toll of 90 fatalities.
The years 2013 and 2014 saw the ‘yellow shirts’ resurgence targeting then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s attempted amnesty bill to aid her exiled sibling. Branding the movement as the Bangkok Shutdown, it served as the prelude to the military coup in May of 2014.
Fast forward to 2020, a fresh wave of protestors began to emerge, primarily younger voices challenging the status quo and governmental structure. Some even went to lengths of calling for monarchy reformations. This prompted the re-introduction of the lese-majeste law under section 112 of the Criminal Code, leading to the prosecution of over 250 individuals since mid-2020, and another 116 on sedition charges.
As a gesture of reconciliation, the amnesty suggested by the Move Forward Party grants reprieve to the new-wave protestors, as well as channeling an olive branch to the ‘yellow-‘ and ‘red-shirt’ demonstrators from the contentious past.