Thai PM gives nod to demand by protesters for charter change

Prayut also agrees to put end to Senate's power to vote for PM but says he will not quit

A protester tied up with white ribbons that say "Rewrite the Constitution" at an anti-government protest in Bangkok yesterday. Charter amendment is one of three core demands being made by pro-democracy protesters. They have also called for the resign
A protester tied up with white ribbons that say "Rewrite the Constitution" at an anti-government protest in Bangkok on Oct 29, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
A protester tied up with white ribbons that say "Rewrite the Constitution" at an anti-government protest in Bangkok yesterday. Charter amendment is one of three core demands being made by pro-democracy protesters. They have also called for the resign
A protester tied up with white ribbons that say "Rewrite the Constitution" at an anti-government protest in Bangkok yesterday. Charter amendment is one of three core demands being made by pro-democracy protesters. They have also called for the resignation of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (above) and his government, and reforms of the monarchy.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK • Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has given the green light to amending the kingdom's Constitution, as Parliament's two-day special debate on the ongoing political crisis wrapped up.

Mr Prayut said on Wednesday that he agreed with many of the points made by MPs about the crisis, but said the main thing was to support charter amendment.

However, Parliament must follow the current Constitution, since it would remain in effect until a new Constitution is established, he added.

Charter amendment is one of three core demands being made by pro-democracy protesters.

They have also called for the resignation of Mr Prayut and his government, and reforms of the monarchy.

Mr Prayut has insisted he will not resign but said he had no objection to "switching off" the unelected Senate's power to vote for a prime minister.

"I agree to amend the Constitution," said the premier. "As for the issue of senators choosing a prime minister, I don't want to emphasise it. I have no objection to them choosing or not choosing. It's a matter for debate in Parliament."

On another matter, Mr Prayut said the Cabinet has agreed that a reconciliation committee should be set up to find a way of resolving the ongoing political crisis.

He said the committee will be appointed by the House and will include representatives from different parties, the Senate, MPs and pro-democracy activists.

Meanwhile, a prominent Thai anti-establishment figure was charged yesterday over his role in an illegal flash mob protest last year, prosecutors in the country's capital said.

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, a charismatic billionaire and founder of the dissolved Future Forward party, is accused of five public assembly violations linked to the rally in Bangkok's central shopping district in December last year.

Charges include failing to notify the police of a public gathering, blocking a sky train station, using a megaphone without permission and holding a rally close to a royal residence, his lawyer Krisadang Nutcharut said.

"The maximum sentence is six months in jail," he told reporters.

The charges are part of a slew of recent legal actions against Thanathorn and other Thai MPs elected under the Future Forward banner but who have now shifted to its successor, Move Forward Party.

The indictment comes a day after Ms Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, Thailand's first transgender legislator, was disqualified from Parliament after the constitutional court found her guilty of owning shares in a media company.

Thanathorn also fell foul of the same electoral law and lost his seat in November last year.

Also facing criminal charges over the December flash mob are Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat and former Future Forward party officials Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, Pannika Wanich and Pairatchote Chantarakachorn.

THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2020, with the headline 'Thai PM gives nod to demand by protesters for charter change'. Print Edition | Subscribe