Ex-communists pocket cash benefits in Thai amnesty deal

Final payouts made as part of agreement with government that led to the surrender of 80,000 party members in 1980.

    The government of Thailand has distributed cash benefits to former members of the now-defunct Communist party in the final stage of an amnesty deal.

    More than 6,000 former Communist party members received nearly $7,000 each.

    At a ceremony at the army club building in Bangkok on Wednesday, Prawit Wongsuwan, Thailand's deputy prime minister, met 294 former communist comrades.

    The ceremony marked the final payouts of an amnesty deal struck by the Thai government in 1980 to squash the party's armed communist resistance, which led to the surrender of 80,000 members.

    Overall, $38m was given out over the years, first in 2002 and again in 2009.

    READ MORE: Peace eludes Thailand's mainly Muslim south

    Military commanders say it was a "counterinsurgency" success story.

    "We don't see these people as the enemy anymore," Lieutenant-General Chainarong Klaewklar told Al Jazeera.

    "We're all Thais and this is what we do, forgive. Whatever happens in the past stays in the past."

    In the 1970s, the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) was the second largest communist movement in Southeast Asia.

    Thousands of recruits joined the CPT after a government crackdown on protesters in 1976 left dozens dead.

    The Chinese government, which the CPT had relied on for support, withdrew its backing.

    Soon after, the government shifted tactics and discarded military force in favour of amnesty and handing out financial benefits.

    Kamol Susumpow, a former Communist party member, says he does not see things as a winning or losing proposition.

    "It is not a game," Susumpow told Al Jazeera. "It was a rare occasion that two opponents could come to an agreement to prevent further loss."

    While the government calls the payouts as the final share, others, such as Suthachai Yimprasert from Chulalongkorn University, see the payments as a way to coopt opposition parties.

    "These payments to ex-Communist party members are politically motivated, either for the government to gain more support or to prevent any kind of gathering that may lead to violence," he told Al Jazeera.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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