Thai amnesty bill: PM Yingluck urges understanding

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Media caption,

The BBC's Denise Hammick: "Yet more protesters gathered in what is now a second week of protests"

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has appealed for public understanding over a controversial political amnesty bill which has sparked street protests.

The bill has passed the lower house and is due to be debated by the Senate next week.

The amnesty applies to offences committed during the political turmoil after Thailand's 2006 coup.

Critics say the bill could allow the return of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in the coup.

Mr Thaksin, who is also Ms Yingluck's brother, has lived in self-imposed overseas exile since being convicted of corruption in 2008, charges he says are politically motivated.

More than 10,000 people took to the streets of Bangkok on Monday to protest against the bill.

'Painful lessons'

In a televised address, Ms Yingluck said: "The amnesty bill is a way out... one of the ways that we should all consider if we all learn to forgive one another."

"Since this government took power it has focused on reconciliation... an amnesty is not about forgetting our painful lessons but about learning so it does not happen again to our young generation," she said.

She did not mention Mr Thaksin in her address.

Supporters of the bill say it will allow national reconciliation following the political turmoil that resulted from the 2006 military coup.

This turmoil included the occupation of Bangkok's main airport in 2008 and then two months of street protests in Bangkok in 2010 that left about 90 people - mostly civilian protesters - dead.

However, critics say it would allow human rights abuses to go unpunished. Even some of Mr Thaksin's supporters are opposed to the bill, as they fear this would offer amnesty to those behind the 2010 crackdown.

The bill passed by 310 votes to 0 in Thailand's lower house on Friday after the opposition Democrat Party boycotted the vote.

The bill will be debated by the Senate early next week, and Ms Yingluck promised she would respect its verdict - suggesting that if the upper house does reject the amnesty in its current form, the government would probably accept its defeat, the BBC's Jonathan Head reports from Bangkok.