Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has defended a controversial amnesty bill that has sparked mass anti-government protests in recent days.

In a speech broadcast live on television on November 5, Yingluck said the amnesty is needed to reunite the country after years of turmoil culminating in a bloody crackdown by the previous government on pro-Thaksin “Red Shirt” protests in 2010 that left dozens of civilians dead.

She said the bill is not about forgetting painful lessons but about learning so it does not happen again to the young generation.

The ruling Pheu Thai Party led by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has made a proposal to pass the bill granting pardons for crimes related to political unrest since 2004.

Meanwhile, the opposition Democrat Party has warned the amnesty will “whitewash” past abuses, including the killing of unarmed protestors.

Demonstrators held that the brother of Prime Minister Yingluck - former Prime Minister Thaksin, who remains in self-exile in Dubai to avoid prison for a corruption conviction imposed in his absence in 2008 - will benefit the most if the bill is approved.

Mass protests have exploded in Bangkok since the Thai Parliament began the debate over the bill last week.

The bill was adopted by the House of Representatives on November 1 and is expected to be submitted for the Senate’s approval on November 11.

According to Thai law, if the bill is rejected by the Senate, it can still be approved by the House of Representatives and submitted to the King of Thailand after 180 days.

Prime Minister Yingluck called on senators to consider the bill on the spirit of conciliation.-VNA