Senate likely to shoot down amnesty bill

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BANGKOK, Nov 5 – Senate Speaker Nikom Wairatpanich and a group of elected senators vowed on Tuesday to shoot down the controversial amnesty bill in its first reading, saying the move is aimed to seek a way out for the country.

Flanked by some leading elected senators, the senate speaker announced their stance at a news conference announcing that the Upper House will not accept in principle the amnesty bill slated for deliberation next Monday.

The move is meant to find a solution to the country and defuse political tension, he said, brushing aside criticism that the decision was in response to the prime minister’s televised address to the nation hours earlier

“The decision is neither because the government nor the prime minister sent signal to the upper house but it is based on national interest,” he stated

Mr Nikom said the senate whip is scheduled to discuss the issue Wednesday afternoon before making an official announcement shortly afterward.

He also assured the public that the senators will deliberate the bill thoroughly with the public interest in mind and to move the country forward. Some elected and appointed senators have concluded with him during recent discussions that they will not pass the bill in the first reading. According to procedure, the bill must then be returned to the lower house.

In her nationally televised address, Ms Yingluck urged the upper house to exercise full discretion in its deliberation of the bill based on national reconciliation and mercy.

“No matter what the decision will be, be it rejection or (changing by) amendment, I believe that the lawmakers who voted in favour of the bill will accept the (Senate) decision for the sake of national reconciliation,” Ms Yingluck said.

The premier’s statement came a few days after anti-amnesty bill mass protests led by the opposition Democrat Party drawing tens of thousands of people onto Bangkok streets.

Opponents of the bill are angered that its passage will clear ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra of legal liability for his wrongdoings and pave the way for his return to Thailand. Some Red Shirt supporters also voiced their frustration with the bill, reasoning that the authorities behind the 2010 deaths during the Red Shirt protests, including Democrat party leader and former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, will also be pardoned.

If the upper house rejects the bill, it will be sent back to the House of Representatives which would leave it for 180 days before reconsidering it.