Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Amnesty Bill heats political conflict to a boil; Anti-ICJ protesters told to avoid border; Ancient hand cannons found

– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Amnesty push makes political conflict more likely
The Nation/Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: October has seen important political changes in the past – notably, a student-led uprising in 1973 and a massacre of protesters at Thammasat University in 1976.

This year, a new round of political conflict is simmering after the House committee vetting the amnesty bill revised the draft that passed the first reading in the House of Representatives.

The change would grant amnesty to all people involved in the political conflicts of the recent past, as well as those whose court cases stemmed from the coup of September 19, 2006 that brought down the government of Thaksin Shinawatra.

Critics view this move as benefiting former prime minister Thaksin. But MPs from the ruling Pheu Thai Party in the vetting committee insisted that Mr Thaksin would not get his seized assets back. In February 2010, the Supreme Court found that the ex-leader had abused his power and caused his family business to be worth an extra 46 billion baht when it was sold to a Singaporean company during his term in office.

The red shirts, who are the main supporters of Mr Thaksin and the ruling party, have split over the issue of the amnesty bill.

Some want blanket amnesty to be granted, but others oppose it. A number of red-shirt figures have threatened to withdraw their support from Pheu Thai, but it is unlikely they will join the ruling party’s political enemies in a move to bring down the government.

Anti-ICJ protesters told to avoid border
The Nation/Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Protesters have the right to rally after the World Court’s November 11 ruling on Thailand’s dispute with Cambodia over land adjacent to Preah Vihear Temple, but they should not do so in strategically sensitive areas near the border, the Army chief said yesterday.

“The presence of protesters might block troop movements,” General Prayuth Chan-ocha said.

Gen Prayuth was speaking after visiting an Army Ranger task force in Si Sa Ket to ensure military preparedness ahead of the ruling. He said he was concerned that protesters would seek to renounce the decision by the International Court of Justice, even though the situation was not critical enough to warrant such move.

He said his visit to the border areas was meant to boost morale, not to signal battle readiness.

“I have instructed my subordinates to stay alert in order to rein in [any potentially violent situations], because fighting should not happen unnecessarily,” he said.

There have been no unusual troop movements on the Cambodian side, the general said.
Troops stationed in border areas are under strict instructions to avoid any misunderstanding between themselves and forces across the border, and to foster good neighbourly ties, he said.
Ancient cannons found near Front Palace
The Nation/Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Eight hand cannons along with a large amount of ammunition were recently unearthed during renovations at Bangkok’s Front Palace located in the National Museum compound near Sanam Luang, Fine Arts Department chief Anek Sihamat said yesterday.

Archaeologists discovered that the site used to be an army barrack during King Pinklao’s reign (1808 to 1866) and the department has registered the items for conservation and display at the National Museum in Phra Nakhon district.

Mr Anek said the discovery was made on Tuesday, when the Office of Archaeology officials were excavating a field near the National Museum’s Putthai Sawan Hall as per the Front Palace conservation and development project.

He said the firearms and ammunition were found outside the building’s perimeter. The hand cannons, each about 75 to 100 centimetres long with a barrel 10 to15cm in diameter possibly fired metal balls. Such handguns were widely used in Europe and Asia between the 14th and the 15th century, and Thailand bought these guns from the West during the Ayutthaya to Rattanakosin eras.

Mr Anek said these hand cannons were possibly decommissioned or broken and were hence piled outdoors when the Army barrack was demolished during the reign of King Rama V.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

Thailand News
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