Thailand's lower house of parliament preliminarily approved a bill on Thursday to grant amnesty to those charged with political offenses during the country's 2006 military coup. The measure was approved [WP report] by a vote of 300-124 despite protests [Reuters report] by members of the opposition party who fear that the bill will allow former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile] to return to Thailand without facing prison. While the bill explicitly excludes Thaksin, opponents are concerned that the law is an underhanded attempt [AP report] to allow him back into the country. However, before ultimately becoming law the bill must be approved by a 35-person parliamentary committee and signed by the king and must also withstand any legal challenges.
Thailand has faced significant political instability since the 2006 coup that ousted Thaksin. In December of last year Thailand announced that former prime minister Abhist Vejjajiva would be charged with murder [JURIST report] for his role in the 2010 military crackdown [TIME backgrounder] on anti-government protests that left more than 90 killed and 1,800 injured. In October the Thai Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant [JURIST report] for Thaksin after he refused to appear before the court to stand trial for criminal charges. In February 2011 seven leaders of Thailand's "red shirt" movement, a pro-Thaksin group, were released on bail [JURIST report]. The leaders were arrested on terrorism charged following their involvement with the 2010 anti-government protests.