Phairote Pholphet, president of the Human Rights Lawyers Association said Sunday the amnesty bill contains a hidden political agenda of the Pheu Thai Party to help ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra get away with his crimes.
Thaksin has remained overseas in self-imposed exile since being sentenced in 2008 by the Supreme Court to two years in prison for abuse of authority in the Ratchadaphisek land sale case.
"This is too overt an attempt to help Thaksin to get away with it. They just used the majority to make decisions and refused to compromise with those who disagreed," Mr Phairote said.
He referred to the House committee scrutinising the amnesty bill, which on Friday voted to pass the amended draft legislation with the blanket amnesty proposal. "The government and Pheu Thai have shown that when they want anything, they are determined to have it overtly. A political confrontation will ensue as opponents will surely come out to oppose it," Mr Phairote said.
He said the new version grants a blanket amnesty without determining who were the offenders.
The original version of the bill put forward by Pheu Thai MP for Samut Prakan Worachai Hema would not have granted an amnesty to ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra and the protest leaders and authorities responsible for the red-shirt protest crackdown, but would have included all others convicted of crimes relating to political violence.
But the panel voted to approve revisions to Section 3 of the bill to grant a blanket amnesty to all people involved in political unrest, including protest leaders, soldiers, and authorities responsible for ordering the crackdowns.
The amended section would also invalidate the decisions of the now-defunct Asset Scrutiny Committee (ASC) which investigated alleged irregularities of the Thaksin Shinawatra administration after the 2006 coup, as well as those by the National Anti-Corruption Commission, which took over the ASC's cases.
The ASC's investigations led to the Supreme Court ruling in 2010 to seize assets worth 46 billion baht from Thaksin's family after finding he had abused his power to benefit its telecom business.
The bill's critics believe the draft legislation will benefit Thaksin and they suspected it would lead to the return of Thaksin's seized assets worth 46 billion baht.
Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher on Thailand for Human Rights Watch, said the blanket amnesty proposal has betrayed the trust of the red shirts who wanted those who were responsible for the protesters' deaths to face punishment. Mr Sunai said Pheu Thai may think the blanket amnesty will benefit the military, Thaksin and the Democrats but it will eventually lead to a confrontation, given that the anti-government groups as well as the Democrats plan to hold rallies against the bill. Representatives of eight civic and anti-government groups yesterday met to discuss their move against the amnesty bill.
The groups include the Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand, the People's Democratic Force to Overthrow Thaksinism and the People Assembly Reforming Thailand.
Suriyasai Katasila, coordinator of the Green Politics Group, said the groups have agreed they will mount an all-out campaign against the bill.
Mr Suriyasai said the groups will decide next Sunday if they will unite and merge into one new group.
Somkiat Pongpaiboon, chairman of People Assembly Reforming Thailand, said civic groups from 77 provinces will meet next Sunday to set a date "to blow a whistle" to signal the start of a campaign against the blanket amnesty.
Nitithorn Lamluea, an adviser to the Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand, which is holding an anti-government protest at the Uruphong intersection, said the group will also join the campaign.
Democrat MP for Surat Thani Suthep Thaugsuban said the party will hold a rally to oppose the bill next month when the bill reaches parliament for its second reading. "We believe tens of thousands of people will come out."
Fugitive red-shirt co-leader and former PM's Office minister Jakrapob Penkair, now in exile abroad after being charged with lese majeste, yesterday said on his Facebook page that he disagreed with the proposed blanket amnesty.
He said all involved wanted to bring the political conflict to an end, but the blanket amnesty will become "the first chapter for a fresh struggle in which friends will become enemies".
Payao Akkahad, the mother of Kamolkate Akkahad, the red-shirt volunteer medic shot and killed during the 2010 political violence, said red shirts were upset and were betrayed by the blanket amnesty proposal.