Thailand's amnesty bill and the countdown to the general election
Restless Beings is extending its news capacity to include your contributions of citizen journalism. We want to provide a platform for those who want to share their story, and allow us to see events through their eyes. Whether you are a blogger, journalist or just want to have your say, contact [email protected] and tell us your story.
Our first contribution is written by a Thai citizen living in the UK. Ahead of Thailand’s general election, they tell us about the controversy surrounding the proposed amnesty bill, which, according to critics, could allow human rights abuses to go unpunished if passed.
I was in Thailand in November 2013 when the government tried to pass the Amnesty bill. This act of absurdity and arrogance caused outrage and anger in Thai society and led the protesters to come out, and consequently, the government was forced to dissolve Parliament.
A new general election was announced for 2 February 2014, but it has been a long and murky path. The anti-government protest of the so-called People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) has demanded the election be postponed. Why? Because, in their opinion, the majority of Thai citizens are not ready for clean, ethical elections.
The PDRC has cited that the majority of people who live in rural areas will still vote for the ‘dirty’ politicians who buy votes from the poor, and that these people don’t understand true democracy and are largely uneducated. Some even claim that their votes are more valid than votes from the poor and uneducated.
The PDRC has proposed that Thailand should reform before the election. But there is little detail to this proposed reform that is supposed to lead Thailand to true democracy, other than attempting to stop the poor and uneducated going out to vote.
After the PDRC revealed their campaign to “shut down Bangkok,” many people who disagreed with their tactics were encouraged to demonstrate against the PDRC and support the election. A number of symbolic act such as wearing white, lighting a candle and taking photos with a sign to “respect my vote” have been organised in areas in and around Bangkok, and subsequently spread across Thailand and abroad.
I have been living in the UK for 7 years and I must admit that I have never previously registered, through the Thai embassy, to use my overseas vote. This time I feel that my right to vote has been intimidated and threatened therefore I was determined to vote.
With only one week until the election, the Constitutional Court has made a statement that the government may postpone the election by consulting a new date with the Election Commission. Despite this, the government insists that the election date should remain as scheduled, whilst the Election Commission says it should be delayed. According to the latest news, the two will meet to discuss the timing on Tuesday (28 January).
Will the election go ahead as scheduled? I’m not sure. I’m only certain that I will not give up my vote easily any more.
The author of this article has requested anonymity.
Images: Athit Perawongmetha /Reuters