Why Thaksin is wrong

24 10 2013

At the Bangkok Post there is an interview with Thaksin Shinawatra who is headlined as having “expressed his support for the controversial amnesty bill…”. We think he is wrong and needs to reconsider his position. To begin, however, we want to say where he is right.

Support for an amnesty is right. There was nothing wrong with the original proposition that amnesty would be for rank-and-file protesters. Thailand has long suffered from state authorities murdering citizens – deemed opponents – with complete impunity. Ending that situation requires that state officials, the military brass and leaders of political movements be held responsible for their illegal actions.

We also think Thaksin is right to believe that most Thais would be happy for more political stability than has been the case since the military’s last coup in 2006. He’s right to speak of justice, forgiveness and peace.

But the version of the amnesty Thaksin supports does none of this. More likely, it will foment more conflict and will do neither Thaksin nor the country much good. It will, amongst other things, reinforce the notion that the state and its senior officials can act illegally with impunity.

Thaksin is wrong to say that Thailand “needs ‘resetting back to zero’ for the sake of future generations.”

We can’t help but mention that it was supporters of the 2006 coup who repeatedly talked of that illegal military action as resetting Thailand. No doubt the looney yellow shirts will also point out that the Khmer Rouge wanted a new beginning from Year Zero.

Thaksin is wrong to “insist… the amnesty push is not for himself, but to allow the country to move forward from political conflict…”. He’s wrong to talk about “justice” and “rule of law” when the proposal he supports undermines both.

His linking of amnesty with “entering the AEC [Asean Economic Community]…” is wrong as the two issues are simply unrelated.

Thaksin is wrong to speak of forgiving. He should consider those who don’t seek revenge but who want justice as a way of breaking the cycle of impunity.

If he really does “have no problem staying in foreign lands for another 10 years…” then he should be comfortable with an amnesty that seeks real justice. Such an amnesty would be a real historical breakthrough, and not just a resetting that is simply another cycle of impunity.