Thailand's former PM Abhisit warns of worsening political crisis unless Parliament okays charter change

  • Thailand
  • Saturday, 14 Nov 2020

BANGKOK, Nov 14 (The Nation/ANN): Former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has warned that the solution to Thailand’s political crisis will be blocked if Parliament votes no to charter change on November 17-18 next week.

Abhisit criticised the junta-drafted 2017 Constitution for suppressing democracy and said more political unrest would follow unless it was rewritten.

“Resignation [of the prime minister] and dissolution [of Parliament] without changing the rules will bring back the same problems, ” Abhisit told a seminar on the Constitution and Thailand’s future on Friday.

Escalating pro-democracy protests are demanding the prime minister quit, Parliament be dissolved and the Constitution be rewritten.

“Acceptance of the charter rewrite will show that people in power are listening to [opposition] demands and truly want to open avenues for discussion that will lead to changes in Parliament, ” said Abhisit.

He expects MPs and senators to approve some of the seven charter-change drafts tabled next week but said this would not heal the political divide. However, PM Prayut Chan-o-cha could show he was sincere about resolving the crisis by prioritising the charter rewrite as the solution, he added.

The same seminar was organised by the Thai Journalists Association, Committee of Relatives of the Black May 1992 Heroes, the Campaign for Popular Democracy, and other civil society organisations.

Adul Khiewboriboon, chairman of the Black May relatives committee, said he had initially backed Prayut to solve the political unrest, but the PM had now become an obstacle to rewriting the charter and should resign.

Pichai Rattanadilok na Phuket, a political science lecturer, said unelected senators represented the interests of the elite, who were trying to preserve nepotism in Thai politics and blocking amendment of Section 256 to pave the way for a charter-rewriting assembly.

Their action only diminished their elite-given credibility as showed they were not listening to the people’s demands, he added.

Sudarat Keyuraphan, chairwoman of Institute for Thailand Transformation, said past political conflicts occurred during times of greater stability, but fragile current conditions were now threatening violence that would drag the country over a precipice.

Prayut was wrong to claim he had done nothing wrong, she added, since he placed himself at the centre of the conflict by seizing power with an organisation that cannot be scrutinised and violating the Constitution.

“The current Constitution deprives people of rights and concentrates power in one spot, stopping the country from thriving. The solution is for the premier to listen and solve the problems in good faith, not just focus on clinging on to power.”

She said the government had no sincerity in amending the charter and was using the Constitutional Court as legal tool to favour itself.

It could redeem itself by preparing MPs and senators to accept charter amendment and set a deadline of December for consideration of drafts, before organising a referendum to vote on a new Constitution, she added.

Senator Kamnoon Sidhisamarn told the seminar he accepted the amendment to curb the Senate’s power but said most senators did not.

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