Senate Speaker Nikom Wairatpanich on Tuesday vowed to reject the blanket amnesty bill after the prime minister signalled to the Senate she would be happy for lawmakers to decide its fate.
Senate Speaker Nikom Wairatpanich is quite confident that the Senate will not pass the bill.
In a bid to defuse growing tensions which have brought thousands out on to the streets in protest, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called on senators to feel free to use their judgement when deliberating the bill next week.
The bill is scheduled for its first reading in the Senate on Monday. The support of at least 76 out of 150 senators is needed to pass or reject the bill.
Mr Nikom, accompanied by a group of elected senators, said the Senate would not pass the bill, which would then have to return to the House of Representatives.
The Lower House is legally required to wait 180 days until it can adopt the bill for confirmation. The draft legislation needs the support of more than half the MPs to pass it into law.
Senator for Nonthaburi Direk Thuengfang said the elected senators seem to be reaching a consensus that the bill should be halted.
He said he has raised the issue with senators Rossana Tositrakul and Paiboon Nititawan, both of whom were against the bill from the beginning.
Senate whips will meet today and expect to issue a statement on the amnesty bill.
But Democrat MP Suthep Thaugsuban, who is leading the Ratchadamnoen Avenue protest, questioned how Mr Nikom could represent other senators to assure that the Senate would reject the bill.
He said he would not trust him until the Senate actually vetoed it.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra makes her first official remarks at Government House on the blanket amnesty bill yesterday. CHANAT KATANYU
In her first official remarks on the bill, Ms Yingluck said the government would leave its fate in the hands of senators.
The prime minister said the bill has been passed by the House of Representatives and forwarded to the Senate. It is now up to the senators to make a decision.
She said the government will not use its House majority to do things that go against the public will and that the government's policy is to foster reconciliation.
In her statement, Ms Yingluck also criticised opponents of the bill, saying some of them were not ready for forgiveness and showed signs of wanting violence. She said she did not want the bill to be used as a political tool and distorted to bring down the government and democracy.
Ms Yingluck reiterated the bill was proposed by the legislative branch and she tried her best not to intervene.
"As the prime minister, I stay away from intervening in the work of the legislative branch.
"This leads to the accusation that I'm abandoning my responsibility as an MP. The truth is that I want the members of the legislature to do their job without interference," she said.
A source close to the cabinet said Ms Yingluck called an informal meeting with some cabinet ministers and the secretary-general of the National Security Council Lt Gen Paradorn Pattanatabut to discuss the situation before making the statement.
The source said Ms Yingluck told the ministers who were at her press conference that she wrote the statement after consulting her sister, Pheu Thai MP Yaowapa Wongsawat.
According to the source, Ms Yingluck said Ms Yaowapa agreed that the government should send a signal that it was ready to take a step back. The source said the government sent the signal to the Senate after Ms Yingluck's statement.
Pheu Thai secretary-general Phumtham Vejjayachai said after the executive meeting that the party would accept the Senate's decision.
However, he declined to say if the bill would be dropped entirely if the Senate rejects it. He said the bill should follow the normal process through while noting that the party was ready to back down.
Suriyasai Katasila, coordinator of Green Politics, said Ms Yingluck's remarks showed no sign the government would relent on pushing through the bill.
He said the prime minister had instead handed the problem to the Senate and he believed the government would continue to lobby senators to support the bill.
Mr Suriyasai said the prime minister's attack on the protesters was an attempt to distort the gist of the bill and would only worsen the situation.
"I am calling all groups to carry on with their campaign against the amnesty bill with full force.
Only the force of the civil sector can stop the bill [that is designed] to whitewash the cheats," he said.
Udomdet Rattanapien, adviser to the government whips, said it it is up to the House speaker to decide if the bill is shot down by the Senate.