Skip to main content

Bangkok police brace for protests over controversial amnesty bill

From Kocha Olarn, CNN
updated 3:10 AM EDT, Wed August 7, 2013
Protestors against the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, rally on August 4,2013.
Protestors against the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, rally on August 4,2013.
  • Thousands of police officers are deployed in Bangkok
  • The government has invoked temporary security measures for the protests
  • Demonstrators oppose a bill that would grant amnesty for people jailed in political unrest
  • Human rights groups warn that the bill could let people who carried out abuses off the hook

Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) -- The Thai capital is on edge Wednesday as police brace for demonstrations over a bill to be presented in parliament that would grant amnesty to people jailed for acts committed during outbursts of political unrest in recent years.

Concerns over the protests have prompted the government to invoke special temporary security measures to prevent demonstrators from entering certain areas of Bangkok, including a zone around the parliament building.

Authorities deployed thousands of police officers equipped with riot gear Wednesday to seal off the areas.

Proposed by a lawmaker from the governing Pheu Thai party, the controversial bill would absolve protesters charged, prosecuted, and convicted for acts against the state since the military coup in September 2006 that brought down former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Most of those convicted are members of the "Red Shirt" movement that supported Thaksin. His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, is the current prime minister of Thailand.

The groups organizing demonstrations in opposition to the bill say they fear it could set the stage for Thaksin's return from exile.

Thaksin left Thailand in 2008 after he was convicted of conflict of interest charges. He was sentenced in absentia to two years in prison.

Tensions between pro- and anti-Thaksin groups reflect deep divisions in Thai society that erupted into violence in 2010. Protests by the Red Shirts against the government at the time led to a military crackdown during which more than 90 people were killed and hundreds were injured.

Worachai Hema, the lawmaker from Yingluck's party who has proposed the amnesty bill, says it aims to help people who were unfairly prosecuted for expressing their political views.

But human rights organizations have warned that the bill could absolve people who ordered or carried out abuses.

"The ruling party's amnesty bill lets both soldiers and militants responsible for deaths during the 2010 upheaval off the hook," said Brad Adams, Asia director at the advocacy group Human Rights Watch.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:18 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
While aspects of the fighting in Gaza resemble earlier clashes, this time feels different, writes military analyst Rick Francona.
updated 10:38 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
The death of an American from Ebola fuels fears of the further global spread of the virus.
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Nearly two weeks after MH17 was blown out of the sky, Dutch investigators have yet to lay eyes on the wreckage. How useful will it be now?
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
The U.S. and EU are imposing new sanctions on Moscow -- but will they have any effect?
This looks like a ghost ship, but it's actually the site of a tense international standoff between the Philippines and China.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
The reported firing of artillery from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle, says CNN's military analyst Rick Francona.
updated 4:46 AM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
The young boy stops, stares, throws ammunition casings at the reporter's feet without a word.
updated 8:48 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Sure, Fido is a brown Lab. But inside, he may also be a little green.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Photograph of an undisclosed location by Patrycja Makowska
Patrycja Makowska likes to give enigmatic names to the extraordinarily beautiful photographs she shoots of crumbling palaces.
updated 4:04 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
When the Costa Concordia and its salvage convoy finally depart Giglio, the residents will breathe a sigh of relief -- and shed a tear.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.