Punt on charter reform vote not meant to ‘buy time,’ ruling party says

Protesters gather Thursday outside the new, unfinished parliament building. Photo: Coconuts
Protesters gather Thursday outside the new, unfinished parliament building. Photo: Coconuts

A spokesperson for the governing party said today the parliament was not trying to “buy time” by not voting as expected on six proposals to revise the constitution because more debate and study are needed to understand them.

Patcharin Sumsiripong of the Palang Pracharath Party said establishing a commission made sense because the proposals had only been discussed in the lower house and not by the 250 senators, all of whom were chosen by the military. Patcharin, who represents part of Bangkok, said the move would allow the senators to weigh in on the process, which cannot succeed without their support. 

“Establishing a study commission before the constitution is rewritten isn’t to buy time,” she said. “We need to understand the gaps in the current constitution before rewriting it.”

That did little to stem the anger among pro-democracy campaigners who were amassed outside during yesterday’s session to pressure the assembly into taking meaningful action. Changing the constitution to reduce the military’s dominance and return power to the people is a key demand of the protest movement. 

Key to the 2017 charter’s consolidation of military power was making the entire senate unelected and weakening large political parties. Votes had been expected Thursday to move forward debate on the six proposed revisions – five from the opposition and one from the governing coalition.

“If we don’t fight with extreme methods, the government and senators will keep themselves in the game,” wrote Facebooker Nui Liverpool. “They see that [protesters] can’t do anything much and will fade away. So tired.”

The deck is stacked against the opposition as 84 junta-appointed senators are needed to pass anything by majority vote. 

The dominance of the unelected Senate over the proceedings is at the heart of several proposals, though they differ in how to achieve that.

Other proposals include abrogating amnesty for the junta and eliminating provisions that allow for an unelected prime minister, a key feature of the 2017 charter that paved the way for coup leader Prayuth Chan-o-cha to be appointed to the position after last year’s flawed election.

MPs from Move Forward and Pheu Thai yesterday lodged protest votes against establishing the commission, which was passed 432 to 255. The motion to delay voting passed with a similar margin of 431 to 255.

Palang Pracharath’s Patcharin said she felt sorry they did not support the move, saying its objective is to merge the proposals from both sides into a single bill.

Thursday’s rally was organized by the Free People Movement, one of two umbrella groups whose demands include that the government step down but do not address the monarchy. The group’s Tattep “Ford” Ruangprapaikitseree said yesterday that demonstrators would return to the parliament house next month when the matter is up again.


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