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Thailand set to ditch controversial Amnesty Bill

New law may well have enabled exiled PM Shinawatra's return

Thailand set to ditch controversial Amnesty Bill

Today's protest outside Government House, from which Yingluck Shinawatra announced the dropping of the bill 

Stephen Steele, Bangkok

November 7, 2013

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The Thai government has signaled the possibility of an about-face on a controversial Amnesty Bill in the wake of surging protests across the capital Bangkok.

The bill was passed unanimously in the parliament's lower house on November 1, after the opposition Democrat Party boycotted the vote. It was scheduled for a final vote in the Senate on Monday November 11.  If passed, it could have paved the way for the return of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who fled Thailand after being convicted of corruption charges in 2008.

But towards the end of today's round of protests in Bangkok, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra issued a statement that the House of Representatives has agreed to drop all amnesty draft bills from its agenda. 

The decision followed the senate's announcement that it would reject the measure when considering it on Monday. 

One of the largest rallies today was around the Government House in Bangkok, from which Prime Minister Yingluck - who is also Thaksin's sister - issued her statement.
Carrying national flags and wearing headbands that read, “I Love The King,” the protesters thronged the streets outside the United Nations offices in Bangkok leading to Government House where barbed wire, barricades and hundreds of police officers in full riot gear barred their way.

“The government must work for the people, not for themselves,” said Giggs, a 27-year-old university student and tattoo artist who uses only one name. He was attending the rally with a group of classmates. “Our government says they fear the protests may turn violent. But we are smart enough to protest peacefully. We love Thailand and the government must know they work for the people."

The deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, perhaps the most polarizing figure in Thailand, was unseated in a military coup in 2006. Yingluck Shinawatra has played a leading role in promoting the bill that would pardon her brother’s crimes and return to him a majority of his considerable wealth, which has been seized by the government.

Some of Thaksin’s supporters, known as the Red Shirts, have also criticized the law because it would protect Democrat politicians who ordered a crackdown on Red Shirt demonstrators in 2010. More than 100 people have been killed during political protests since the 2006 coup.

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