Deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra has expressed his support for the controversial amnesty bill, saying the country needs "resetting back to zero" for the sake of future generations.
In an interview in Singapore with Post Today, the Thai-language sister newspaper of the Bangkok Post<, the self-exiled former leader insisted the amnesty push is not for himself, but to allow the country to move forward from political conflict. (Story continues below)
Thaksin: "Think of the next generation, not just the next election."
The proposed amnesty is an attempt to "reset" the country so that political adversaries can set aside their differences and work in the interests of the country, he said.
"We [people who are fighting] will soon be gone. It is our children who will take our place and they will have to live in a bruised and battered country because of what we do, because we just want to win ... to be in power and have no thought for our country," Thaksin said.
He said if the public is tired of political conflict and wants a fresh start, it must consider what triggered the conflict and what the consequences are if it does not end.
A parliamentary scrutiny committee voted last week to revise the amnesty bill, broadening the scope considerably from the original version put forward by Pheu Thai MP for Samut Prakan Worachai Hema.
The revised bill would grant a blanket amnesty to all people involved in political unrest, including protest leaders, soldiers, and authorities responsible for ordering crackdowns.
Anti-Thaksin groups and the opposition Democrat Party fear the amnesty would clear Thaksin's criminal convictions since it is expected to cover people facing legal action stemming from investigations after the 2006 coup.
But Thaksin insisted that was not what the amnesty push was about.
He said resetting the country would help ensure justice and enable those in charge to maintain impartiality. If the rule of law can be established, the country will move ahead, he said.
"We are entering the AEC [Asean Economic Community] and face more competition. Should we still fight each other or stand together to fight the challenges from outside?" Thaksin said.
"Should we reset and move on or should we continue to fight? I have no problem with it. I have no problem staying in foreign lands for another 10 years. I am used to it.
"The first two years were hard for me but it doesn't bother me anymore. I can make myself useful to the country though it will be in quite limited ways.
"If you ask me if I want to go home, of course I do. But it doesn't bother me if I can't. The situation has taught me to adapt," he said.
Thaksin's remarks echoed those of former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, chief adviser to the Pheu Thai Party's strategic committee and Thaksin's brother-in-law. Mr Somchai also insists the amnesty bill would reset the country.
Thaksin insisted he has forgiven everyone who made himself and his family suffer and is not motivated by revenge. "Don't fear me, I'm a reasonable person," he said. "In fighting, I would never bow to anyone but if we are talking I can compromise even during times of war."
Critics believe the revised amnesty bill will lead to the return of assets worth 46 billion baht seized from Thaksin as a result of his abuse of power conviction.
The bill seeks to nullify all decisions made by the now-defunct Asset Scrutiny Committee (ASC), which was established to investigate alleged irregularities of the Thaksin administration after the 2006 coup.
The former prime minister said he holds no grudges and is ready to forgive and start anew for the sake of the country.
He said he is not afraid of fighting but is always open to negotiation.
"If there is a battle, I will not accept defeat and I won't stop until I die. But I am open to talk even if a battle is on. I know when to go forward and when to retreat," he said.
Thaksin called on all parties to forget the past and shift their focus away from petty politics and elections.
"Think of the next generation, not just the next election," he said.
Thaksin played down criticism that the proposed amnesty will lead to the return of his confiscated assets, saying his critics are just trying to find fault.
Thaksin claimed he does not think about getting his money back even though he has described the asset seizure as "robbery".
He said he is not hoping for an amnesty when talking about resetting the country. Thaksin said while the Democrat Party has the right to oppose the amnesty bill, it should not create chaos and disrupt House meetings.
The ex-premier said it was not fair to blame him for the ongoing political divisions. Political fighting intensified when the country became a two-party state following the enforcement of the 1997 charter, he said.
The charter allowed major political parties to thrive, and he only used that to his advantage, Thaksin added.