Thai opposition quits peace panel, fears Thaksin amnesty

Tue Mar 27, 2012 4:19am EDT
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BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's main opposition party withdrew on Tuesday from a parliamentary reconciliation panel in protest at an independent study it said was aimed at whitewashing exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra of his graft conviction.

The house committee has taken up the study's recommendation of a general amnesty for those guilty of crimes related to the country's long-running political crisis.

The Democrat Party suggested the plan, drafted by King Prajadhipok's Institute (KPI), was aimed at facilitating the return and political comeback of twice-elected Thaksin, who fled into exile in 2008 before being sentenced to two years in prison for conflict of interest when he was in power.

Thaksin was overthrown in a military coup in 2006.

"The decision to include the report at a parliamentary meeting is an excuse to work towards a pardon," Democrat MP Jurin Luksanawisit told reporters.

Thaksin's homecoming is a divisive issue in Thailand, where he is loved and despised in equal measure. Many analysts believe his return could upset the current fragile peace and trigger another round of bloody confrontation.

The committee was set up by the then ruling Democrats in 2010, in the wake of a 10-week protest by Thaksin's supporters that was crushed by the military, leaving 91 dead and more than 1,800 wounded in several clashes.

Thaksin still enjoys huge support among the rural masses but has powerful enemies among the conservative elite, the military and the royalist "yellow shirts" protest movement, all of which he says have undermined his governments, or those of his allies.

Thaksin's politically inexperienced sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, is now prime minister but is widely regarded as his proxy. Her coalition controls three-fifths of parliament.   Continued...

Opponents of ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra hold banners during a protest in central Bangkok November 18, 2011. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj