Thai King opens first Parliament since 2014 coup

This handout from the Thai Parliament taken and released on May 24, 2019, shows Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Thailand's Queen Suthida as he opens parliament in Bangkok.
This handout from the Thai Parliament taken and released on May 24, 2019, shows Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Thailand's Queen Suthida as he opens parliament in Bangkok.PHOTO: AFP
Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn, accompanied by Queen Suthida, presiding over the opening of the first assembly of Parliament at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok yesterday. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn, accompanied by Queen Suthida, presiding over the opening of the first assembly of Parliament at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok yesterday. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

He urges MPs to be aware of their responsibility; PM Prayut looks set to remain in power

BANGKOK • Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn yesterday opened the country's first Parliament since the military seized power from an elected government in a 2014 coup.

Parliament will choose a new prime minister, who will form a Cabinet likely next month, but its exact makeup is not yet known after a March 24 election produced no clear winner.

However, a military-linked party aiming to keep junta leader Prayut Chan-o-cha in power is expected to have the edge in cementing power under rules written by the military government.

"May the Members of Parliament be aware of the importance and responsibility of their duties," King Vajiralongkorn, accompanied by Queen Suthida, said.

"Because every action of each member will directly impact the security of the nation and the happiness of the people."

The Thai Parliament combines a 500-member House of Representatives elected in the March 24 polls and 250 senators, who were entirely appointed by the junta.

Ambassadors, junta members and members of the king's Privy Council were also present at the convention, which came a day after an anti-junta party leader was suspended as a Member of Parliament over his alleged illegal holding of shares in a media company after registering as a candidate for the election.

Mr Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the youth-oriented Future Forward Party, has been suspended from taking his seat until a ruling by the Constitutional Court, which could see him permanently disqualified.

Mr Thanathorn has denied the charge and said he had already transferred his shares before he officially registered for the polls.

The March 24 election pitted supporters of the junta, who are seeking to keep Mr Prayut in power, against the Democratic Front of seven parties that wants to keep the military out of politics.

With 245 seats, the Democratic Front now led by Mr Thanathorn is trying to form a government and block a 15-party coalition of the pro-junta Palang Pracharath and its allies, which together hold 134 seats so far.

Some other 100 elected MPs from other parties have not officially aligned with either side.

The Lower House will convene again today to choose its chairman. Under the new junta-written Constitution, the House of Representatives will vote along with the junta-appointed Senate to choose the prime minister. The vote is expected later this month.

Mr Prayut appears set to stay in power, providing that the majority of the Senate votes in line to get him over the line of 375 votes, or half of the combined houses.

The next government is expected to take shape early next month.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2019, with the headline 'Thai King opens first Parliament since 2014 coup'. Print Edition | Subscribe