Parliament to review how Thai lawmaker on run from law showed up to vote

Waipoj Apornrat, a former Redshirt leader who switched sides to become MP for the pro-government Phalang Pracharath Party and is now on the run from the law, in a file photo. Photo: Waipoj Apornra / Facebook
Waipoj Apornrat, a former Redshirt leader who switched sides to become MP for the pro-government Phalang Pracharath Party and is now on the run from the law, in a file photo. Photo: Waipoj Apornra / Facebook

House Speaker Chuan Leekpai today said he’d ordered an investigation into how a pro-government lawmaker on the run from police sneaked into the parliament to cast a vote that tilt the balance in favor of the ruling coalition.

Speaking to reporters just before noon, Chuan said officials must look into how Waipoj Apornrat, a former Redshirt leader who switched sides to join the pro-government Phalang Pracharat party, managed to waltz into the chamber to help undo a vote authorizing an investigation of potential abuses of power by the prime minister during his five-plus years as junta chief.

Waipoj is wanted for his alleged role in leading riots that disrupted an ASEAN Summit in 2009 that led to its cancelation and the evacuation of regional heads of state. He showed up Wednesday to cast his vote against the investigation in a do-over of the vote that managed to achieve quorum despite the opposition’s absence. The revote of the motion saw it defeated by a 244:5 vote.

Parliament moves to undo vote authorizing investigation of Prayuth and his junta

The claims of bewilderment are likely to beggar belief among the opposition, who eked out a win on the motion when six members of the ruling coalition – all members of the pro-establishment Democrat Party – defected to support the probe. Since they prevailed in parliament, Chuan has led maneuvers attempting to undo the vote.

The episode deals another blow to the ruling government’s law-and-order credentials, coming on the heels of its refusal to dismiss an ex-con and former international heroin trafficker from the cabinet.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha staged a coup d’etat in 2014 and granted himself absolute power to rule over Thailand until he was made prime minister following an election this past March that was skewed by rules created in his favor.

Chuan said he was in the hospital Wednesday and unable to preside over the meeting. He said that he is waiting on an initial investigation report in order to determine if parliamentary police and related agencies would be looked into, according to multiple media reports.

This, in turn, means more delay into the planned parliamentary investigation into the impacts of Prayuth’s many orders executed under the so-called Article 44 provisions. 

Waipoj’s arrest warrant for the riot that erupted in Pattaya a decade ago was just issued Tuesday following a court ruling that upheld sedition convictions for a dozen Redshirt leaders, including Waipoj. They were also convicted of illegal assembly, property damage, and trespassing and handed down four-year prison sentences. 

The warrant for Waipoj means that he should be arrested on sight. 

Though Waipoj had originally maintained his innocence, he confessed in September around the time he was poached by Palang Pracharath.

Wednesday’s meeting was the third one to be preoccupied with the investigation into Prayuth’s orders, after the opposition approved it by a slim margin of four votes last week. After the vote passed, members of the pro-establishment Palang Pracharath Party quickly demanded a recount, saying the margin was too thin, leading opposition members to walk out and trigger a suspension of the session due to a lack of quorum.

The meeting was called off again Thursday morning after opposition lawmakers walked out for a second time when the house speaker brought up the recount again.

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