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Thaksin Shinawatra’s Political Amnesty Push: Will Lese Majeste Offences Be Included?

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Thaksin Shinawatra, enveloped by a sea of enthusiastic supporters, made a grand entrance into the Pheu Thai headquarters in March. Amidst the fervor, an amnesty for individuals charged and prosecuted in political cases appears not only necessary but overdue. According to political analysts, this fresh push might dodge the chaos that marred a similar attempt back in 2013. The renewed effort is led by a 35-member special House committee, steered by Pheu Thai MP Chusak Sirinil, and aims to dissect the scope of the amnesty, focusing particularly on periods and individuals granted clemency.

This hot-button issue has catapulted into the public eye, sparking debates on whether the amnesty should encompass offences under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, known as the lese majeste law. Thaksin Shinawatra, seen as the de facto leader of the ruling party, finds himself indicted over remarks made during a 2015 interview with a South Korean newspaper in Seoul. As Thaksin braces for the prosecution on June 18, the question lingers: will lese majeste offences be pardoned under the new political amnesty bill?

Political experts like Phichai Ratnatilaka Na Bhuket, Program Director for Politics and Development Strategy at the National Institute of Development Administration, assert that an amnesty could mend political rifts and foster reconciliation. He elaborates that a consensus is building around which political offences should be forgiven, typically excluding severe crimes like corruption or violence instigation. However, contention arises over whether Section 112 should be included, with polarizing opinions on whether these are politically motivated crimes or threats to national security.

The Pheu Thai party initially showed tepid interest in granting amnesty for lese majeste cases. Yet, the atmosphere shifted once Thaksin faced indictment for violating the law. Despite this, a blanket pardon for lese majeste offenders seems improbable, as strict criteria are anticipated for evaluating such cases. “If Pheu Thai pushes the bill, they’ll need to collaborate with coalition partners who ideologically oppose it. Excluding lese majeste won’t quell political tensions,” Phichai asserts.

The current political landscape is starkly different from a decade ago, reducing the likelihood of the unrest seen in 2013 during the Yingluck Shinawatra government’s blanket amnesty attempt. That movement led to massive street protests, culminating in the May 2014 military coup.

Pheu Thai MP Cherdchai Tantisirin, a member of the special House committee, indicates the panel is nearing the completion of its study, which will include recommendations on both amnesty proceedings and whether the lese majeste law should be incorporated. He stresses the panel’s formation wasn’t influenced by Thaksin’s indictment and emphasizes helping young activists who face charges for political activities as a priority. The ruling party will later determine whether to proceed with or exclude Section 112 from the amnesty bill.

Move Forward Party (MFP) Deputy Leader Pol Maj Gen Supisarn Bhakdinarinath notes the committee initially sidestepped Section 112 until Thaksin’s case emerged. The MFP’s proposal aims to promote national unity and assist young political activists, acknowledging that lese majeste laws have deepened political conflicts. The MFP remains indifferent to the beneficiaries as long as they satisfy the amnesty criteria, welcoming coalition support.

Reflecting on the failed 2013 amnesty effort, which was marred by secrecy and public dissent, Supisarn asserts that transparent discussions can prevent chaos. The 2013 bill’s critics labeled it a carte blanche for absolving all political unrest-related crimes, leading to fierce public opposition and the now-defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee’s protests against Yingluck’s government.

Former red-shirt movement leader Jatuporn Prompan champions an amnesty for all politically motivated offences dating back to the political turmoil of 2005. He proposes conditions such as non-repetition assurances from beneficiaries. Jatuporn believes garnering coalition support for the amnesty, excluding lese majeste, is feasible. However, involving lese majeste, especially with Thaksin’s indictment, complicates the matter. “Thaksin’s indictment makes it tougher due to public resistance,” Jatuporn predicts, though he doubts the Pheu Thai-led government would crumble over the issue.

Adding to the debate, the Bhumjaithai Party recently warned that an attempt to include a blanket pardon for lese majeste offenders could destabilize the government. Jua Ratchasi from the coalition United Thai Nation Party suggests a national unity bill that reviews political cases, excluding lese majeste and corruption. He argues that lese majeste offences, involving the revered monarchy, are not inherently political and should warrant penalties, with royal pardons as the recourse.

As discussions intensify, the special House committee’s findings will chart the course for the ruling party’s next steps in navigating the turbulent waters of political amnesty.


  1. Joe June 9, 2024

    I can’t believe we’re even considering amnesty for lese majeste offenders. That’s just asking for trouble!

    • grower134 June 9, 2024

      Not really, Joe. These laws are often used to suppress dissent. Amnesty could heal some of the political wounds.

      • Larry Davis June 9, 2024

        Healing political wounds? More like opening a can of worms. The monarchy should be respected, and lese majeste laws enforce that respect.

    • Susan K June 9, 2024

      I agree with grower134. Many young activists face harsh penalties just for speaking out. This isn’t just about respect; it’s about human rights.

      • Joe June 9, 2024

        Respect and national security can’t be compromised for activism. There are other ways to express dissent responsibly.

  2. Larry D June 9, 2024

    It’s clear Thaksin is just pushing this to save himself. If it wasn’t for his indictment, would we even be discussing lese majeste in this amnesty?

    • Maya June 9, 2024

      Larry D, that’s a very cynical view. Thaksin has always faced political persecution, which is why this law matters more now.

      • Larry D June 9, 2024

        Maya, it’s not cynical; it’s realistic. Political figures shouldn’t get special treatment under the guise of ‘amnesty.’

      • Tony Stark June 9, 2024

        Larry D, Thaksin’s indictment is a catalyst but not the sole reason. Many activists also need support. The goal is national reconciliation.

    • Joe June 9, 2024

      Amnesty should be for the greater good, not for political convenience.

      • Lara June 9, 2024

        Joe, sometimes personal and public interests align. This could help many people, not just Thaksin.

      • JennyT June 9, 2024

        Lara, public and personal interests aligning? That’s a risky assumption. Let’s not jeopardize national security over politics.

  3. Esteban June 9, 2024

    Lese majeste laws are outdated. They don’t belong in a modern democracy. This amnesty is a step in the right direction.

    • Tyler7 June 9, 2024

      Outdated? These laws protect the sanctity of the monarchy, a key part of our national identity!

      • Esteban June 9, 2024

        Safety and respect should stem from genuine reverence, not fear of legal repercussions.

    • Sophia M. June 9, 2024

      Esteban, I agree. True respect can’t be enforced by law.

    • Jackson B. June 9, 2024

      But Sophia, laws exist to maintain order. Without them, what’s to stop people from outright disrespect?

  4. Britni88 June 9, 2024

    The inclusion of lese majeste in the amnesty bill is just too controversial. It will divide the country even more.

  5. Harold J. June 9, 2024

    Britni88, any substantial change is controversial. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be pursued. We can’t keep running from difficult decisions.

    • max_pap June 9, 2024

      Harold J., that’s true, but aren’t there more pressing issues to focus on right now? Our economy, for instance?

      • Harold J. June 9, 2024

        max_pap, political stability is crucial for economic recovery. Fixing these issues might help set the stage for broader reforms.

      • ANON87 June 9, 2024

        max_pap, leaving political prisoners behind is like trying to build a house with a cracked foundation. It’ll all come crashing down.

  6. Chris June 9, 2024

    Including Section 112 in the amnesty bill is essential for achieving true national unity.

    • Lisa M. June 9, 2024

      Chris, true unity can’t be forced. Some wounds are too deep to be healed by a mere political decree.

      • Chris June 9, 2024

        Lisa, but shouldn’t we at least try? Doing nothing certainly won’t heal anything.

  7. YoungActivistX June 9, 2024

    As someone who’s faced harassment for my political beliefs, this amnesty bill brings hope. Lese majeste charges are just one way to silence dissent.

    • OldGuard June 9, 2024

      Hope for activists, maybe. But it opens Pandora’s box. Political stability is fragile; we can’t just ignore national security concerns.

    • Sophie June 9, 2024

      OldGuard, true stability requires addressing the grievances that spark unrest. Ignoring these issues won’t make them go away.

  8. Jill B June 9, 2024

    Imagine the backlash if lese majeste is included. We could see protests just like in 2013.

    • Phil T. June 9, 2024

      Jill B, the political climate is different now. People are more aware of their rights and are pushing for change.

    • JennyT June 10, 2024

      Phil T., that awareness doesn’t mean the backlash won’t be severe. We need to tread carefully.

  9. Greg June 9, 2024

    Whether you love or hate Thaksin, you have to admit that his indictment has brought much-needed attention to the lese majeste laws.

    • Emily June 9, 2024

      Well said, Greg. The conversation about these laws was long overdue.

  10. Tom June 10, 2024

    Blanket amnesty for political cases could help Thailand move forward, but not if it includes Section 112.

    • Maya June 10, 2024

      Tom, excluding Section 112 might undermine the whole point of reconciliation. We must be brave enough to address all injustices.

  11. Aisha June 10, 2024

    If we keep the lese majeste offences excluded, we’re not really achieving justice. Different rules for different classes isn’t fair.

  12. David W. June 10, 2024

    Amnesty is important, but it should not include those who have endangered national security. Lese majeste holds a significant place in our society.

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