Source: AP There’s never a dull moment in Bangkok. As I recently reported, rumblings of a coup are gaining traction. The atmosphere in the city is becoming eerily similar to when Yellow Shirt demonstrations took hold in 2008. Protests, albeit of a small variety, are beginning to sporadically pop up. The main difference today is that the military, for the time being, is standing on the sidelines, unwilling to become involved. However, animosity between the two main political parties is at its highest levels since the 2009 crackdown on Red Shirt protesters which ultimately resulted in more than 90 deaths and the Thai capital being set ablaze. The main point of contention now is the return of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former Prime Minister who was ousted in a bloodless coup in 2006. His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, is the current Prime Minister, but it is widely believed that Thaksin, who lives in self-imposed exile after being convicted in absentia for corruption and graft, is the man behind the curtains in the current administration. The ruling Pheu Thai Party which represents, in general terms, Thailand’s poor, rural majority, has been favoring an amnesty clause for several actors involved in the 2006 coup and resulting protests. This would, theoretically, absolved Thaksin of his convictions — which he has always maintained were politically motivated — and allow him to return to the country. This is anathema to the opposition Democrat Party, who are the party of big business in Bangkok and represent the capital’s elite class. They announced that they were leaving a reconciliation panel–set up by the Democrats after the 2009 crackdown–over the proposed amnesty clause. What followed was a near brawl in the Thai Parliament (see video above). This was not the first time witnesses have observed a scene like this either. Whether you consider this to be a sad development or an exciting development, it is perhaps unsurprising for this country more than anything; it is a state which has been defined by coups since it became a constitutional monarchy in 1932. Is another one on the way? Only time will tell.
Two years after the crackdown by the Thai military on Red Shirt protestors, the government has not arrested or charged any soldier or official for the deaths and injuries committed, Human Rights Watch said this Tuesday during a press conference. The organization called for the withdrawal of an amnesty bill submitted to Parliament that would protect those involved in the 2010 abuses from prosecution.
The Thai government should undertake a transparent and impartial investigation into violence and abuses by all sides in the 2010 political upheavals and hold accountable all those responsible, Human Rights Watch said today. Serious investigations and appropriate prosecutions are important for promoting lasting reconciliation.