Bangkok — Thailand’s House of Representatives passed second and third readings of the controversial blanket amnesty bill early Friday morning after opposition Democratic Party MPs walked out in the face of defeat.
The bill was passed by unanimous votes after a 19-hour debate, even as protesters staged an all-night rally organized by the Democrats.
The national police chief said he expected 20,000 to 30,000 people to join the protest, according to Thai media reports.
Brought to the House floor by Pheu Thai Party MPs, the bill contains seven sections. The most controversial is Section 3, which gives a blanket amnesty for all politically-connected charges, including the coup that overthrew the Thaksin Shinawatra government in 2006.
Earlier amnesty bills specifically excluded Thaksin and other senior political leaders.
The new bill offers amnesty for all those involved in political protests from Jan 1, 2004 to Aug 8, 2013, except for those accused under the lese majeste law.
The final vote was 310-0 with four abstentions, with the House session ending at 4:25am Friday.
The name of the amnesty legislation is “Granting an amnesty to those committing offences relating to political demonstrations and the political expression of the public”.
The passing of the bill is viewed as a victory for Pheu Thai hardliners and for Thaksin, reported the Bangkok Post.
The four MPs who abstained included red shirt activists who have been charged with terrorism and other crimes.
United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (red shirt) core members Nattawut Saikuar, Kattiya Sawasdipol, and Weng Tojirakarn face charges related to the 2010 Bangkok violence, but will now presumably have those charges dropped.