Activists and academics voiced their support for parliamentary debates on several amnesty bills at a seminar yesterday and also called for an overhaul of the judicial system.
Kritaya Archavanitkul, a Mahidol University lecturer and representative of the People's Information Centre (PIC), said during a seminar called "108 Reasons to Pardon Political Prisoners" the planned deliberation of the bills next month marks a critical juncture in Thai politics.
"The bills will revisit mistakes made by state mechanisms and return justice to people affected by them - those who were arrested or who faced trials," Ms Kritaya said.
For a longer-term solution, Thailand will need to overhaul its judicial system and rethink how security laws are used, the academic said.
The impact of the crackdown on red-shirt protesters in 2010 was huge, according to the PIC. More than 1,800 people were charged in criminal lawsuits. Of these cases, 1,644 proceeded to court, with five people jailed.
Of the 150 incomplete trials, 137 people have been released on bail while 13 people were refused bail.
Arrest warrants were also issued for hundreds of people in several provinces including Mukdahan, Ubon Ratchathani and Chiang Mai.
Even those already acquitted by the courts remain vulnerable as prosecutors are appealing many of those cases which are related to armed robbery, terrorism, and weapons possession.
Ms Kritaya said that in principle, the PIC supports bills that would free prisoners and pardon those under arrest warrants and court appeals, but which also avoid giving impunity to the military.
Thongchai Winichakul, a history professor at Wisconsin University in the US and former political activist, said an amnesty law is needed because there is injustice in Thailand's law enforcement process.
"We all know that the judicial system has upheld a lopsided principle that is in favour of the establishment, instead of justice and fairness, when it comes to national security offences," the former Thammasat University student leader said.
He also called for the reform of the justice system.
"It is always easy to pardon people who tear up the constitution but it's always difficult if an amnesty is being pushed for those struggling against the upper class in society," Mr Thongchai said.
The 2006 coup makers wrote a clause in the new constitution they later had drafted pardoning all those involved in the military putsch.
Chaturon Chaisaeng, a former political prisoner and now education minister, said pardons and amnesty pushes were only for the "elite" and military in the past. He hoped an amnesty would be granted to ordinary people this time.
Charnvit Kasetsiri, a former Thammasat University rector, said as long as there is impunity, violence is bound to ensue.
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- Writer: Achara Ashayagachat