A proposed amnesty bill in Thailand could allow police to go unpunished for use of excessive force against civilians, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] warned [press release] Monday. The bill, proposed by majority party member Worachai Hema, would excuse the behavior of all members of the military and police forces who were accused of malfeasance following the 2006 coup that ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [JURIST news archive]. HRW's executive director of said, "To ensure justice for the victims of violence and to end Thailand's longstanding culture of impunity, the amnesty bill should exclude perpetrators of abuses and instead make them accountable for their crimes." The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has also expressed concern [press release] about the proposed legislation. The legislature is set to begin the first reading of the bill on Wednesday, and a debate is expected to follow.
Thailand's political system has been unstable since the 2006 military coup [AHRC backgrounder, PDF], and the Bangkok crackdown has only exacerbated the instability. Following democratic party defeats in 2011, former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva resigned [Bangkok Post report] as prime minister, and was later charged with murder in relation to the 2006 unrest. A month before his departure, he rejected a proposal [JURIST report] by the opposition party seeking a referendum to grant amnesty to those involved in the 2006 military coup. In February 2011 seven leaders of Thailand's "red-shirt" pro-democracy movement [BBC backgrounder, HRW report], another group that opposes the country's current leadership, were released on bail [JURIST report] after being arrested on terrorism charges stemming from their involvement in the Bangkok protests. Following their release, members of the movement in 2012 also petitioned [JURIST report] the International Criminal Court [official website] to launch a preliminary investigation into whether the government committed crimes against humanity during those protests.