11/18/2020, 17.07
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Thailand’s Parliament rejects the demands of the pro-democracy movement

The demands include a new constitution that limits the king's power, the resignation of former coup leader and current Prime Minister Prayuth, and changes to the military-controlled Senate. Thousands of anti-government protesters gathered near police headquarters. The ruling coalition and the opposition agree on some proposals, but the role of the sovereign remains unchanged.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Thailand’ Parliament this afternoon rejected demands to amend the constitution made by the country’s pro-democracy movement. The military-controlled Senate rejected proposals put forward by the Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw), a civic group that calls for a "People's Charter." The vote took place as thousands of anti-government protesters gathered in downtown Bangkok, near police headquarters.

Since July, thousands of people have demonstrated almost every day calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. Their demands include a democratic constitution and a curb on King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s prerogatives, disproportionate for a constitutional monarchy.

Defeat in the Senate was not surprising. The 250-member chamber is chosen by the Armed Forces, and is Prayuth’s political life insurance. Young pro-democracy advocates want senators to be elected and independent of military influence.

To put pressure on lawmakers, protesters yesterday broke down the barriers erected by the police and camped in front of Parliament. Clashes with the police – and supporters of the monarchy – left 55 injured, including six by gunshot.

Prayuth, the prime target of the protests, is a former commander-in-chief of the army, who came to power in a 2014 coup. Since last year, he has led a civilian cabinet.

His critics accuse him of getting a tailor-made constitution approved in 2017 and of rigging the elections that decreed the formal end to the military junta.

Despite the Senate setback, parliament approved one reform project, backed by both the governing coalition and opposition parties, to set up a charter drafting committee. However, curbing the powers of the monarch is not within its mandate.

Since it began, the pro-democracy movement has turned into an unprecedented challenge to the monarchy, and could go for years. In addition to limiting the king’s political role and his financial perks, protesters want an end to lèse majesté.

At present, the sovereign is a sacred figure in Thailand, and any offence against him can be punished with up to 15 years in jail.

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