Thai political amnesty bill advances

AFP-JIJI

Thailand’s lower house of parliament on Friday passed a controversial political amnesty bill that has sparked mass anti-government protests.

Opponents fear the bill — which still needs approval by the upper house — will “whitewash” past abuses and allow ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to return.

The bill will cover crimes related to political unrest since 2004. Supporters say it will bring closure to years of turmoil culminating in mass pro-Thaksin “Red Shirt” protests in 2010 that left dozens of civilians dead in a military crackdown.

But human rights groups have said a blanket amnesty will allow officials and protest leaders to go unpunished for alleged abuses.