Aug. 7 - Thousands of Thai protesters march against a possible bill that could allow ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra to return to power. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
Around 2,500 anti-government protesters marched through Bangkok on Wednesday (August 7) as Thailand's parliament prepares to debate a political amnesty bill that could let ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra return from exile without having to serve a jail sentence. Thaksin was ousted by the military in 2006 and found guilty of abuse of power, fleeing the country before the sentence was handed down. His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, is now prime minister and critics say her government wants to find a way to get the conviction wiped so he can return a free man. Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva led the march towards parliament. About 4,800 police have been mobilised for protests over the amnesty bill this week and an internal security act has been implemented to allow measures, such as a ban on gatherings in the area around parliament. The amnesty bill, sponsored by a lawmaker from the pro-Thaksin ruling party and backed by the government, would scrap convictions or charges involving protesters active in the waves of political unrest since the 2006 coup. The draft bill does not provide for an amnesty for leaders of the various bouts of unrest but opponents argue it could be altered to achieve that as it makes its way through parliament. Specifically, they believe Thaksin's graft conviction could be done away with, allowing him to return home a free man. Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon, is hugely popular among poor urban and rural people and he led his party to two big election victories before he was ousted. But he is mistrusted by the military-royalist establishment who say he is corrupt and authoritarian.