SONDHI BACK FOR ‘FINAL BATTLE’ AGAINST RECONCILIATION BILL
People’s Alliance for Democracy leader Sondhi Limthongkul returned to the rally stage yesterday to address a large gathering of yellow shirts protesting against a proposed reconciliation bill, saying his next public appearance will be his “final battle”.
The PAD announced yesterday it was calling for a massive rally of supporters on Wednesday at the Royal Plaza to march on parliament where the House of Representatives is expected to begin deliberating the proposed bill.
“It will be my last battle, win or lose,” Sondhi said to about 3,000 PAD supporters gathering at Lumpini Park last night for the PAD’s Muang Thai Rai Sapda (Thailand Weekly) special forum.
Sondhi, who led the yellow shirts in their battle against the Thaksin Shinawatra administration which led to the 2006 coup, has kept a low profile since narrowly surviving an assassination attempt on April 17, 2009.
He told yellow shirt supporters it would be his “final battle” before he steps down as a PAD leader to live a private life.
Sondhi said he is washing his hands of political activism as he does not want to be used by politicians.
The controversial bill was proposed by 2006 coup leader Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin, leader of the Matubhum Party. It has been marked as an “urgent agenda” item for the House sessions on Wednesday and Thursday.
Before Sondhi took the stage, PAD leaders announced they had unanimously agreed to lead a campaign against the reconciliation bill.
A petition seeking to have the draft bill dropped will be submitted to the government and parliament.
“The draft bill goes against the rule of law and one of PAD’s established principles. The PAD is justified in holding the rally,” PAD leader Somkiat Pongpaiboon said.
He said it was nothing but a blatant attempt to whitewash the crimes of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and help him to avoid imprisonment.
Thaksin was sentenced in absentia to two years in jail by the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions in 2008 for helping his ex-wife Khunying Potjaman na Pombejra buy prime state land in the Ratchadaphisek area.
The bill proposes that politicians, state officials and people involved in political rallies between Sept 15, 2005 and May 10, 2011 will be granted an amnesty.
It seeks to annul orders and legal requirements initiated by the coup-appointed Assets Scrutiny Committee (ASC) to pave the way for a new judicial process to look into all of the allegations and return political rights to political party executives who were not involved in the poll fraud that led to the dissolution of their parties.
PAD leader Chamlong Srimuang said circumstances would dictate whether the yellow shirts’ latest campaign would be protracted.
Maj Gen Chamlong said the draft legislation would ruin the country. It will set a bad precedent if it is passed into law.
“Any wrongdoers will be whitewashed if they have money and power. We have never had such a law,” he said.
The PAD leader said if the government refuses to back down, the PAD would not either.
“It is true that PAD supporters will be granted an amnesty, but it won’t do any good for our nation,” he said.
“We want the justice system to run its course.”
Ombudsman Office chair Panit Nitithanprapas has voiced concern over Section 6 of the draft reconciliation bill.
She has read the section and insisted it cannot reverse Constitution Court decisions that have already been passed to disband political parties and ban their executives from politics for five years.
The decisions are final and binding on all parties and agencies. No law can be written to cancel out Constitution Court verdicts.
Ms Panit warned House speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont to check the legality of the bill carefully since some of its contents of could contravene the Constitution Court’s rulings. A mistake in this regard could result in myriad problems later.
She said Section 3 could also be problematic. It seeks to absolve individuals who broke the law when participating in political gatherings.