THAILAND: Political Trend Alert – Red is Out

ELIZABETH NAAI WRITES – Donning a “Red shirt” may soon be a political faux pas due to the highly contested Amnesty bill before Parliament.

After 2010’s violent political strife, Thailand finds itself navigating the retributive versus restorative justice debate. Deep political rifts between the Red and Yellow shirts have done little to alleviate the country’s shaken confidence, but a controversial amendment could be the catalyst to begin the mending between parties.

The army deployed sharpshooters and snipers against peaceful protestors of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), known as the Red shirts, staged around Bangkok in 2010. To broker the healing process, Worachai Hema proposed a bill that would extend amnesty to Yellow shirts (Democratic) and Red shirts (Pheu Thai) involved in protests between Sept. 19, 2006 until May 10, 2010. But politicians and leaders responsible for the crackdown are excluded, including convicted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. However, the Scrutiny Committee. dominated by Pheu Thai voted 18-8 to expand Section 3 to extend amnesty to those found guilty by groups or organizations set up after the military coup of Sept. 2006, and to those with authority to order actions. Thaksin and Pracha Maleenot, associated with the Red shirts, would be acquitted of corruption convictions; Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban, associated with the Yellow shirts, would be acquitted of wrongdoing in the 2010 crackdown.

Although both sides would receive amnesty, neither is content. Yellow shirt members protest the bill on grounds that it will whitewash Thaksin’s convictions and return his 46 billion THB (2.3 bn USD) in frozen assets. Red shirt members criticize Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, and the Pheu Thai Party for abandoning a political mandate – to hold those responsible for the 2010 violence accountable – to fulfill a political agenda and appease military leaders. Recognized political protestor Phussadee Ngamkha echoes the disillusion of many Red shirts, threatening, “I’m ready to throw away my red shirts anytime.” Families, friends and the like staged protests against the blanket amnesty, and petitioned the government to hold public hearings to form collective solutions. Restorative justice is not a direct result of the bill, but the community’s solidarity against this perceived injustice could be a step in the right direction. Our style watch anxiously anticipates peace as a rising trend.

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