Thai parliament suspends pro-democracy lawmaker in first session

Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit talks to the media after he was not allowed to participate in a meeting to vote the new Speaker of the House of Representatives of Parliament, in Bangkok on May 25, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK (DPA, XINHUA) - The newly-formed Thai parliament suspended a pro-democracy lawmaker in its first official session on Saturday (May 25).

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the anti-junta Future Forward Party, was suspended by the chamber minutes after he was sworn in.

The former auto-parts tycoon was accused of violating election law over his holding of shares in a media company, among other cases against him and his party.

He has been charged with sedition for allegedly aiding anti-junta protesters in 2015, and computer crime for criticising the regime on Facebook last year.

Thanathorn said the charges are politically motivated, adding this year's election was neither free nor fair.

Since coming to power in a 2014 coup, the military has charged many dissidents with sedition and computer crime under harsh laws, and has put many civilians in military detention.

Parliament convened on Saturday to elect a speaker and president but was marred by constant interruption from the pro-junta Palang Pracharath party which disrupted the televised proceedings and demanded the session be postponed.

Among reasons cited by the party was that new MPs, not used to the electoral system, needed more time to familiarise themselves with parliamentary protocol.

On Friday, Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida presided over the opening ceremony for the new parliament.

The king urged members of the parliament to work with prudence and honesty in a brief speech.

"Please be aware that all your actions could affect national security and lead to the happiness or suffering of the people," the 66-year-old monarch said.

Also on Friday, Thailand's former National Legislative Assembly President Pornpetch Wichitcholchai was named Senate speaker.

Senators voted Pornpetch as Senate speaker upon the opening of the post-election parliament.

Meanwhile, Singsuek Singphrai was named first deputy Senate speaker and Supachai Somcharoen, former chairman of the Election Commission, was named second deputy Senate speaker.

A total of 498 MPs and 250 senators attended the opening ceremony for parliament alongside Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, members of his cabinet, members of the National Council for Peace and Order and heads of independent agencies.

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