Maximum security in place at Parliament ahead of protest on Thursday
Maximum security is being implemented at the Thai Parliament ahead of a planned protest by the Free People movement, as the joint sitting of the House of Representatives and Senate is due to debate constitutional amendments.
Sorasak Pienwech, secretary-general of the House of Representatives, assured that Parliament will not try to stop the protesters and has set aside an open area, which can accommodate up to 10,000 people, with mobile toilets and food stalls provided.
In case Parliament becomes surrounded by protesters, or if violence breaks out, Mr. Sorasak said that helicopters will be employed to evacuate parliamentarians and officials.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who is in charge of security affairs, expressed optimism that the protesters will not break into the Parliament building, adding precautions have been put in place to deal with such a situation.
The joint sitting of the House and Senate will debate six motions for constitutional amendments, submitted by the coalition parties and the opposition. The key amendments are to Section 256, to pave way for the creation of a Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA), to write a new charter, and Section 272 to reduce the role of senators, for instance in the election of the Prime Minister.
It is reported that a group of senators has raised objections to amending the charter section by section or the rewriting of the whole charter, claiming that, since the charter was endorsed by 16.8 million people in a referendum, the people should be consulted first, as to whether they want the charter to be amended.
“The people are like the house owner and we (MPs and senators) are just the tenants. Then, all of a sudden, the tenants want to pull the house down without consulting the house owner,” said Senator Kamnoon Sidhisamarn, spokesman for the Senate whips. The point here is not about amending Section 256 or Section 272, but about whether the charter should be amended without the consent of the people, said Kamnoon.
No attempt to amend or rewrite the charter is possible without the support of at least 84 senators, as required by the charter.
Meanwhile, non-governmental organization iLaw, which launched a signature collection campaign to support its own set of constitutional amendments, announced that it and its supporters will march from Taopoon subway station to Parliament this afternoon (Tuesday) to submit its list of 100,732 signatures and its proposed charter amendments to House Speaker Chuan Leekpai.
Under the current Constitution, the support of 50,000 people allows the submission of a motion to Parliament. The gist of iLaw’s proposed amendments are:
- Outsider (unelected person) can be elected Prime Minister
- The 20-year national strategic plan and all the mechanisms of the junta (as stipulated in Sections 65 and 275 of the charter)
- 11 aspects of the national reform plan in 11 areas and the powers of the Senate in monitoring the reform plan
- Non-elected local administrators under Section 252
- Section 279 about amnesty for the members of the coup d’état installed junta
- The Prime Minister must be elected by MPs only
- All senators must be elected
- Changes to the method for the election of members of independent organizations
- Amending Section 256 to make possible constitutional amendments with the consent of just half the MPs
- All members of the Constitution Drafting Assembly must be elected by the people