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Yingluck Shinawatra and Red Shirts Await National Legislative Assembly’s Verdict

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Yingluck Shinawatra faces rice subsidy impeachment
Yingluck Shinawatra faces rice subsidy impeachment
BANGKOK – Former Premier of Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra attacked the National Legislative Assembly’s impeachment proceedings against her ahead of a crunch vote that could see her banned from politics for five years and deepen the country’s bitter divide.

Yingluck arrived at heavily policed Parliament House in central Bangkok accompanied by a handful of her party members.

Yingluck told the NLA that there is no position to remove me from as the Constitutional Court has already removed me as prime minister, also saying she should not be impeached for violating a constitution that no longer exists under junta rule.

The government of coup leader Prime Minister Gen.Prayuth Chan-ocha has urged Yingluck’s supporters to stay out of the capital, Bangkok, this week, worried about a repeat of the street violence that has dogged the country in recent years.

Thailand is under martial law, and public gatherings are banned. Still, about 20 of Yingluck’s supporters gathered outside parliament earlier this month despite government warnings to stay away. Some held red roses and tried to raise pictures of Yingluck until police told them to put them away.

Peerasak Porchit, vice president of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), said the impeachment vote would again polarize the country.

“No matter which way it goes, there will be those who agree and those who disagree. It won’t please everyone,” said Peerasak.

Weng Tojirakarn, a former member of Yingluck’s government and a protest leader, said her supporters might hold “symbolic protests” if she was banned from political office.

Yingluck’s supporters say the charges against her are politically motivated and part of a broader campaign by the junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), to limit the influence of her powerful family.

Paul Chambers, director of research at the Institute of South East Asian Affairs affiliated with Chiang Mai University, said that regardless of the outcome, the vote would create dissension against the junta.

“Ultimately, no matter which way the NLA votes, it will create dissension against the NCPO by either pro- or anti-Thaksin elements of Thai society,” he said.

A successful impeachment needs three-fifths of the 220-strong assembly to vote in favor when they meet on Friday.

A guilty verdict would bring an automatic five-year ban from politics and risks enraging her family’s ‘Red Shirt’ supporters, who have laid low since the coup.

Speaking before the hearing Thursday, Jatuporn Prompan, chairman of the Red Shirts, cautioned against street protests on his television show, after noting signs he believed would “lead to impeachment”.

“From tomorrow, we will see more clearly… If we are not patient, Red Shirts will be accused of being responsible for bad things,” he said on Peace TV.

“It is not over on the 23rd, tomorrow is not the end. Time will tell… We have to be patient,” Jatuporn urged his viewers.

Thailand has gone through a highly polarised political conflict that has shredded many parts of our social fabric. For the country to start healing in a sustainable manner, we have to effectively confront crimes and injustices that occurred under the previous regime by developing a publicly shared account of what happened and why.

That involves two spheres of knowledge – the factual truth and the interpretative truth. The latter is more difficult to garner, because the opposing narratives of the events in question are rooted in conflicting worldviews.

But it can be achieved, albeit slowly, if the public start to open their minds to objective truth that can be empirically verified.

Legal accountability in and by itself is not sufficient to heal a severely divided nation. Culpable organisations and individuals will have to acknowledge their wrongdoing and express remorse. This was what Rwanda has managed to achieve after the genocide perpetrated by the rival factions of Hutu and Tutsi.

That is when political forgiveness is warranted.

So whatever transpires tomorrow, let’s hope that the NLA chooses to do the right thing by the country and its people, and avoids making a politically expedient decision that has no lasting value.

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