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The parliament, Bangkok Thailand (31. may 2012)

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Published on May 31, 2012

The stage is set for fiery scenes today after House Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont pushed forward discussion of the reconciliation bills onto today's agenda in parliament.

Yellow shirts opposing the bills have called their supporters back to protest at the House again today, telling them to bring gas masks for protection as they expect to be tear-gassed by security forces.

Dramatic scenes unfolded in parliament, as Democrats staged a walkout after failing to stop Mr Somsak, who was heavily guarded by police, from moving the bills up the agenda for debate today. The opposition attempted to stall debate on the bills by saying they were financially related, as their passage could lead to seized assets worth 46 billion baht being returned to deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

If found to be financially related, the House could not discuss the bills without endorsement from the prime minister.

Before parliament voted on the agenda in the afternoon, a meeting of 35 House committee chairmen ruled 22 to 1 that the reconciliation bills were not financially related.

Brushing off boos and jeers from Democrat MPs, Mr Somsak asked the chamber to vote on whether the bills should be discussed today. Some Democrats confronted him at the bench.

Mr Somsak scheduled today's session at 9.30am after the chamber, without the Democrats who had walked out, voted 272 to 2 in favour of accelerating deliberation of the bills. He then adjourned the meeting promptly.

Some Democrats hurled stacks of paper in frustration at the speaker, who was whisked away by security officials.

A small commotion ensued as Pheu Thai MP Jirayu Huangsap and Democrat MP Thani Thaugsuban traded a few heated words.

Suriyasai Katasila, a coordinator of the Green Politics group who has joined the PAD in the fight against the unity bills, said the government's rush to move the measures up the agenda has revealed the hand of Thaksin.

He said Thaksin, who is expected to be among the beneficiaries of the bills if they pass, underestimates the power of the people who oppose him.

He said the Democrats will find one way or another to foil the bills.

Mr Suriyasai said a key sticking point in the reconciliation bills for the opposition is that they will whitewash Thaksin and in the process deal a blow to the justice system.

"Annulling court verdicts is far worse than a coup," he said, he said, referring to the 2008 court verdict which found Thaksin had abused his power.

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday the party would fight against the bills. He insisted the bills were financially related.

Mr Abhisit said the opposition would continue working with the speaker, but he believes Mr Somsak needs to change his attitude to avoid further problems.

Mr Abhisit also said the party had not intended to disrupt parliament meetings over the last two days.

"I know people may be unhappy with what has happened over the last two days. We did not want it to happen," he said.

"But I want to stress that if damage to the party's reputation which results means the party is able to block legislation that would destroy the nation, I can accept that.

"I want to apologise to people for only one thing _ for not being able to stop the abuse of power in parliament."

Red shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan said the protests were about more than the bills, and accused their critics of trying to topple the Pheu Thai administration. He said he does not expect opponents of the unity bills, led by the yellow-shirt People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and the multi-coloured group, to stop their protests after today.

"The Democrat Party wants to clear the board," said Mr Jatuporn.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra distanced herself from the bills, saying the issue should be settled in parliament.

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