Thai MPs Expect no Action on Monarchy after Discussing Protesters’ Demands

BenarNews staff
Bangkok
2020-10-27
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201027-TH-protest-parliament-1000.jpg Royalists wave Thai flags during an event in Bangkok supporting the monarchy, Oct. 27, 2020.
Reuters

As they wrapped up a special two-day parliamentary session to discuss months of anti-government protests, MPs agreed in principle on Tuesday to amend the military-backed constitution but gave no details other than saying they would not touch clauses pertaining to the monarchy.

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 demonstrations – many of them clad in yellow shirts – rallied in Bangkok to show their support for the king.

And a day after Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha told lawmakers that they could amend the constitution in response to pro-democracy protesters’ demands if they so choose, he issued a caveat on Tuesday. Their demands include that he resign and that the constitution be changed to curb the monarchy’s power.

“Any demand must be in line with the wishes of the majority of the people. If not, I reserve my right to not follow them,” said the prime minister and former junta chief who led a military coup in 2014.

MP Weerakorn Khampragob said he and other lawmakers would not address one issue.

“We won’t touch Section 1 and 2 which concern the monarchy,” he said, referring to the constitution.

Meanwhile, MPs from the opposition Move Forward Party supported the protesters’ position.

“If you look at the positive side, the proposal to reform the monarchy was meant to make it better,” lawmaker Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn said during Tuesday’s session.

House Speaker Chuan Leekpai reminded MPs that no voting occurred, therefore no official action was taken on the matters discussed.

Later, Prayuth said he welcomed establishing a special committee.

“I agree that if there would be a committee to study what we discussed during these two days, that may lead to talks among all parties – the government, parliament and dissidents,” he told the MPs.

Protesters’ concerns

After the special session of parliament ended, a leader of the pro-democracy protesters said his group was skeptical about Prayuth and his administration.

“Often times, the parliament discussed matters without results. The country’s problems were not all addressed, especially the monarchy,” Piyarat Jongthep told BenarNews.

“If Prayuth quits the post, a caretaking government will be set up while the constitution is amended, that way representatives who favor monarchal reforms can discuss the matter at the same time,” he said. “I believe that is the way out.”

Titipol Phakdeewanich, dean of the Faculty of Political Science at Ubon Ratchathani University, said the government was not fixing the problems.

“The parliament session was more like accusing the anti-government protesters without jointly addressing the main issues,” he told BenarNews on Tuesday. “It is just a time-buying which won’t lead to a true solution.”

Foreign influence

During his closing speech on Tuesday, Prayuth warned Thai citizens to not allow foreign influence into the nation’s politics.

“Thai people should not cause damage to the nation and not bring foreign countries to interfere in Thai affairs. We have sovereignty,” he said. “The problem does not have only one side.”

Prayuth was referring to the letter pro-democracy protesters delivered to the German embassy on Monday asking for an investigation to determine if King Maha Vajiralongkorn (Rama X) has been conducting his kingdom’s affairs from Bavaria.

Earlier on Tuesday, about 20 Thai royalists gathered in front of the U.S. Embassy where they unfolded banners saying: “Please stop hybrid war in Thailand,” and “Your job in Hong Kong was done but it does not work for Thailand.” More than 1,000 people gathered in nearby Lumpini Park to offer their support.

U.S. Embassy officials did not comment on Tuesday’s rally but referred to a statement released last month.

“The United States does not support any individual or political party, we support the democratic process and the rule of law. As friends of Thailand, we encourage all sides to continue to act with respect and restraint and engage in constructive dialogue on how to move the country forward,” said the statement dated Sept. 11.

Beginning with their first protest in front of the Democracy Monument on July 18, the student-led demonstrators saw crowds grow as they focused their demand on Prayuth’s resignation and an amended constitution that curbs of the power of Vajiralongkorn.

To counter them, thousands of yellow-shirt royalists began gathering to show their support for the monarchy. The two sides had minor scuffles on Oct. 14, the day the yellow shirts lined the streets of a major protest.

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