Monday, November 21, 2011

Government abandons draft pardon Thaksin says furore damaged unity efforts

The government has withdrawn its plan to seek a royal pardon for its de facto leader and fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra following strong opposition.
Thaksin, photographed recently in Dubai during an interview with the Bangkok Post. Below, a facsimile of his letter provided by his Bangkok spokesman and legal adviser Noppadol Pattama.
Justice Minister Pracha Promnok said Sunday the draft royal decree for royal pardons for convicts on the occasion of His Majesty the King's 84th birthday anniversary on Dec 5 this year would have conventional conditions.

They include bans on convicts found guilty of drugs offences and corruption and convicts who absconded.

Pol Gen Pracha said the draft royal decree would not favour any individual in particular and would not run counter to the Criminal Procedure Code.

The government will have the Council of State scrutinise the draft before seeking approval from His Majesty the King.

Pol Gen Pracha, who is responsible for proposing royal pardons for convicts, was speaking Sunday only hours after Thaksin released a letter saying he has no wish to accept preferential treatment in the royal pardon.

Pol Gen Pracha, however, denied any connection between Thaksin's statement and his, insisting his announcement was only in response to widespread criticism on the draft royal decree. Thaksin's handwritten statement was distributed to the press through the ruling Pheu Thai Party.

Thaksin said he wrote the letter in Dubai and that he did not want any benefit from the upcoming royal decree for royal pardons next month.

He said the nation was suffering from a flooding crisis and needed unity, so he did not want to see any moves that would hinder national unity.

"I am willing to support all measures that lead to national reconciliation.

"I am ready to sacrifice my own happiness even though I have not received justice for over five years. For the people, I will be patient," he said.

In response to recent criticisms of the draft royal decree, Thaksin said he did not believe the government would take any action that would benefit him alone.

He also wrote that as His Majesty the King was ill, and nobody should do anything that would worry the King and he believed that the prime minister shared his stance.

Thaksin was referring to Yingluck Shinawatra who is his younger sister.

In his letter, Thaksin also said those who supported him should not be disappointed. He called on all parties to "forgive and forget".

According to a source at the Pheu Thai Party, Thaksin ordered the party to cancel its plan to seek royal pardons which did not include the ban on drug and corruption convicts, which would make him eligible for a pardon.

The cabinet approved the draft royal decree allegedly without the bans last Tuesday.

The report drew considerable opposition from many parties, who now claim Thaksin wrote the letter to contain political damage to the government.

They say he wrote the letter to signal the government's withdrawal of the pardon plan and ordered Pol Gen Pracha to tell the press Sunday that the government would not help him with the draft royal decree.

The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), on hearing Pol Gen Pracha's statement and Thaksin's letter Sunday, announced that it would cancel its demonstration at the Council of State on Monday.

Spokesman Parnthep Pourpongpan said there was no reason for the demonstration now that the government would not issue a royal decree that would benefit Thaksin.

Thaksin has been prosecuted in many cases of corruption since his government was toppled in a coup d'etat on Sept 19, 2006.

In 2008, the Supreme Court sentenced him to two years in jail for abusing his authority as the prime minister to help along his ex-wife's purchase of a state-owned land plot in inner Bangkok in 2003.

He fled the country shortly before the verdict was announced.