Red shirt thoughts diverse on the blanket amnesty bill

Prachatai talks to various red shirt factions -- progressive activists, former political prisoners as well as prisoners currently jailed as a result of the 2010 political conflict -- about their opinions on the blanket amnesty bill, which is scheduled to be considered by the Senate next week. 
 
 
Thantawut Taweewarodomkul, former lèse majesté prisoner who served three out of 15 years in prison
before receiving a royal pardon. 
 
“I absolute do not agree with the blanket amnesty for everyone. The political prisoners are now upset and unhappy. They have been waiting for this for so long, and why would Pheu Thai stall it now? Even if today I’m outside, I hope I can also get the benefits of the amnesty bill; that it would at least expunge my criminal record. If Pheu Thai were to pass this wholesale amnesty bill, they would lose a lot of mass support.”
 
But the bill would not include lèse majesté prisoners.
 
“It is utterly sad that Pheu Thai Party can grant amnesty to those who killed people, but they will not touch lèse majesté prisoners.”
 
Should Thaksin get an amnesty?
 
“Thaksin himself is not guilty, so he should not receive an amnesty. Anyway, it should not include Thaksin now. As long as this bill involves Thaksin, the prisoners inside will not be released.”
 
 
Phussadee Ngamkham, known as “the last red shirt”
 
“Passing this wholesale bill is a deception on the red shirts. If they planned to do this, they should have done it openly in the first place, not change it later and with stuff it in like this.”
 
If the political prisoners can get out fast, would the blanket amnesty be worth it?
 
”If Pheu Thai really wants to bring justice and equality as they claimed, they must grant amnesty to all sides including lèse majesté prisoners. There are no exceptions. But they just want to kiss the bottoms of those in power. In fact they are just sacrificing dead people to make offerings to the phuyai (elite).
 
“I came here to fight because I want to set principles in this country. That’s why I have fought with my heart and my life. When someone died, I hoped their deaths would be worth it. We don’t want any money because it is impermanent….However what would make the lives lost permanent is legal prosecution that would set the principles, that would prevent any killing in the future. This is what the people wanted, not the money.”
 
How do you feel about Pheu Thai now?
 
“I’ve never cried once since I’ve been fighting. I saw many people dying and hurting. I did not want to cry because I did not want the enemy to see my tears. But when I heard Pheu Thai reading their statement about the wholesale amnesty, my tears just ran down. It hurts so much.”
 
 
Junya Lek Yimprasert, activist, campaigner and writer
 
“I’ve always criticized the “economy comes before democracy” strategy of Pheu Thai for failing to create sustainable stability for Thailand. It does not aim to fix violations of human rights and liberty of the people in the country which is full of class conflict and corruption at every level and which is involved with the power of the monarchy.
 
“To develop Thailand sustainably, the government must focus on the rights and liberty of the people, and its participation in governance to get rid of corruption.”
 
Why wouldn’t Pheu Thai want to grant amnesty to lèse majesté prisoners?
 
“Thaksin and Pheu Thai would not very easily touch the structure of ‘democracy with the King as Head of State’, unless it received a powerful enough demand from the people, because Thailand is waiting for the transitional succession. They are confident that after the succession, they will be able to work better with the monarch. This is however focusing on personal politics, not the system. They did not focus on the structure and how it conflicts with democracy. They also underestimate the power of the monarchy.
 
“Leaders from all sides should not be granted amnesty. But the justice system should be truly neutral in investigating all cases without discrimination.”
 
 
Nitiwat Wannasiri, red shirt activist. 
 
“The amnesty bill is a denunciation of Pheu Thai’s campaign policy to find the truth and justice for the people. They used this policy as their main appeal to the red shirts. This is the main policy why I voted for Pheu Thai as well. If they really go ahead with the amnesty bill, it is clear that they do not care about the people who voted for them.”
 
If the political prisoners can get out fast, would the blanket amnesty be worth it?
 
“In order to release the political prisoners as fast as possible means making resistance to the bill as little as possible. If they include Abhisit, Suthep, Thaksin and the army, it would of course increase resistance. If Pheu Thai really wants to get the political prisoners out, they could have done it on the first day that they became the government. If they really want to get the political prisoners out, why would they support a bill with the most resistance?”
 
Should Thaksin get an amnesty?
 
“Thaksin was not guilty at all because the 2006 coup went against democratic principles from the beginning. It created the Assets Examination Committee to pursue criminal cases in retrospect, so this is against the principles. But now that there are dead people from the 2010 crackdown, I think we should follow the proposals of Nitirat i.e. a constitutional amendment to erase the consequences of the 2006 coup. Thaksin would be able to come back with legitimacy. But if his case is tied to the political prisoners, if Thaksin can’t come back, or the political prisoner won’t get out, this is disgraceful”
 
 
Red shirt protestor from Cholburi 
 
“I could not accept this. They have done so much to us. How can we let the perpetrators get away with it? If the wrongdoers do not get what they deserve, then they might do it again in the future. This might happen again and again. So no matter what Pheu Thai or anyone might say, I will stand firm that I refuse to accept a wholesale amnesty. If Thaksin cannot come back, he should remain abroad until everything is stable and clear, then he should come back clean with grace.
 
“I saw people dying with my own eyes. How can I let the perpetrators go? Do not talk me into accepting this bill. I will not vote for Pheu Thai again next time. I’m disappointed and they will not get my vote.”
 
 
Kowit Yaemprasert, received a nine-year jail term from the 2010 red shirt protest for violating the Emergency Decree, possession of weapons and theft. Currently in Laksi prison. 
 
“I agree with Worachai’s bill. The big boss (referring to Thaksin) should not take the amnesty but the priority is to let our fellow prisoners out. Even if it’s delayed further a bit I do not have a problem. I will fight against this case until the Supreme Court. I just want to punish those who ordered the killing of our brothers and sisters. But if we get bail then that’s even better, because we can fight the case with full capacity.”
 
 
Pattama Mulmin, received 33 years from the 2010 red shirt protest for allegedly burning down Surin Provincial Hall. Currently in Laksi prison. 
 
“I felt better to see the amnesty bill being put forward, but it got stalled because it received a lot of resistance because of the wholesale amnesty.
 
What do you think of the wholesale amnesty bill?
 
“I do not agree with the wholesale amnesty because it’s not worth it to have the wrongdoers walk away freely. Even though you know the two (Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban) will not be imprisoned, in reality the court must prove itself whether it is truly fair and able to find the truth.
 
“How many times have we granted amnesty for those killing the people? But this time, it’s strange because the victim’s side is the one offering a pardon to those who killed us. Do not forget that we have come out to call for justice for those who died. And today you are forgiving the wrongdoers? So what we have done means nothing? If they actually do this, not only the opposition, but we will abandon them as well.
 
“I don’t understand why the court won’t give us bail. Where could have we run? Just making a living is difficult for us. Unlike Sonthi Limthongkul, he has lots of money and ways to run away, but he got bail immediately.”
 
 
Anek Singkhuntod, involved in bombing the Phumjai Thai Party headquarters, blinded by the incident. He received five years’ imprisonment, reduced from life. Currently in Laksi prison. 
 
What do you think of the blanket amnesty bill?
 
“We have not won anything, only lost. With any of the draft bills, we would be stuck here like before. It’s like they’re holding us hostage.
 
“Those who gave the orders to kill wouldn’t go to jail anyway. Even if the Attorney General prosecutes, they would be let go. Trust me. The double standard still exists. If the wrongdoers could be imprisoned, it would have been done a long time ago. But it’s been three years. So what could we believe in? They’re god’s children. We’re just commoners.
 
“I think the amnesty could go all the way, while the problematic justice system needs to be reformed. After granting an amnesty, we must fix Article 309 to prevent further coups. It’s the beginning of the whole thing. We need to fix that to prevent any further killing.”
  
 
 
 
Mutita Chuechang contributed to this report.