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Thailand lawmakers approve amnesty bill

The Thailand House of Representatives [official website] approved a bill Friday that opponents fear will provide amnesty for crimes committed by self-exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [Forbes profile; JURIST news archive]. The bill, which was approved 310-0 after opposition walked out in protest, would allow amnesty [AP report] for offenses committed during the political unrest following Thaksin's ousting in a 2006 military coup [Guardian report]. The Democratic party [party website, in Thai], which has fought the bill, has staged protests and threatened to file a complaint with the Constitutional Court [official website] to block the legislation. The bill must still be approved by the Senate to become law.

Thailand's political system has been unstable since the 2006 military coup [AHRC backgrounder, PDF], and the Bangkok crackdown has only exacerbated the instability. In August Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] warned [JURIST report] the bill contending that it could allow police to go unpunished for use of excessive force against civilians. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has also expressed concern [press release] about the proposed legislation. 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.

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