[JURIST] The Thailand Senate [official website] rejected a bill on Monday that may have provided amnesty for crimes committed by self-exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [Forbes profile; JURIST news archive]. The senate rejected the bill 141-0 after the Thai House of Representatives [official website] approved the bill [JURIST report] 310-0 in its vote, which occurred almost two weeks earlier. Those in opposition to the bill’s passage have argued that it was an attempt to ready the country for Thaksin’s return, after fleeing Thailand in 2008 to avoid a two year prison sentence for corruption. The Democratic party [party website, in Thai], which has remained in staunch opposition to the bill, called for a three-day strike [AP report] by businesses and schools after the senate’s vote, in order to allow citizens to take part in ongoing protests.
Thailand’s political system has been unstable since its 2006 military coup [AHRC backgrounder; PDF]. In August Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] warned [JURIST report] against the amnesty bill, contending that it could allow police to go unpunished for excessive use of force against civilians. Following democratic party defeats in 2011, former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva resigned 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], 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 (ICC) to launch a preliminary investigation into whether the government committed crimes against humanity during those protests.