Thai Ruling Party Shelves Amnesty Bills, Constitutional Changes

Thai Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra
Thaksin Shinawatra, former prime minister of Thailand. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s ruling party shelved consideration of constitutional amendments and bills that may provide amnesty for her brother when Parliament reconvenes today.

The Pheu Thai party agreed yesterday to postpone a vote on setting up a body to rewrite the constitution while it consults coalition parties over the next two months, according to spokesman Prompong Nopparit. Bills providing a broad amnesty for political crimes that would include former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra were also put on hold, he said.

“We see that there are still misunderstandings and disagreements over this issue,” Prompong said by phone. “It spoils the mood and attempt for reconciliation. So, we will leave it as it is for now.”

The Constitution Court suggested this month that a public referendum should be held before Thaksin’s allies rewrite the charter ratified after his 2006 ouster to make it more democratic. His opponents see the moves as part of a strategy to facilitate his return to Thailand and blocked Parliament last month in an effort to thwart the initiatives.

Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party “doesn’t want to take risks or have any problems with the court,” said Suwat Bumrungchartudom, an analyst at Bualuang Securities Pcl in Bangkok. “It’s smart to play it safe. People will just forget about it for awhile and then they can bring it back again.”

Economy Beckons

The government plans to focus more on economic problems, including handling any fallout from the European debt crisis and rising costs of living, Prompong said. The Interior Ministry will also start a campaign to educate the public on why it’s necessary to change the constitution, he said.

Demonstrations by Thaksin’s supporters and opponents since the coup have led to more than 100 deaths, the seizure of Bangkok’s airports and blockades of downtown business areas.

“We’re not going to split the country,” Thaksin told reporters in Hong Kong last week. “We’re not going to do anything to increase the conflict.”

Thaksin has lived overseas since fleeing a two-year jail sentence in 2008 on abuse of power charges brought by a military-appointed panel. Yingluck has run the government since August after her party won a majority in nationwide elections, the fifth straight victory for allies of Thaksin.

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