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Thai Lawmakers Reject Bill to Weaken Military’s Role in Politics



Thai Lawmakers Reject Bill to Weaken Military's Role in Politics

Thailand’s lawmakers have shot down a draft bill aimed at strengthening democracy, in which its backers sought to overhaul the Government hijacked by the military elite.

In a joint session of parliament and the military stacked Senate voted 473-206 to reject the draft bill. Six lawmakers also abstained. The draft bill called for the constitution passed under a military junta to be changed to ensure a clear separation of power between Thailand’s military and lawmakers.

Thailand’s government is still led by Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and his architects of a 2014 military coup that toppled a democratically elected government. Gen Prayut remained in power after a 2019 election that its rivals say was stacked in the military’s favor.

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, who orchestrated the coup after promising he wouldn’t, denies that he stacked the senate so the military could retain its grip on power.

The draft bill was backed by 130,000 petitioners and sought to abolish the 250-seat, junta-appointed Senate. The bill also sought to restructure the Constitutional Court and key state agencies.

The government’s critics, including a formidable student-led protest movement that emerged last year, say democracy has been subverted by Thailand’s military and royalist elite. Both wield a huge influence over independent institutions.

Military controlled senate protection

The 2017 constitution created by the military junta protects and enables Gen Prayuth to extend his power by providing mechanisms of control through the Senate and independent agencies. Since 2019, 21 bills have been proposed to parliament seeking constitutional amendments. Sadly only one of which has passed, which sought changes to Thailand’s ballot system.

Furthermore, Pro-Prayut lawmakers defended the junta-made constitution, saying that it was endorsed in a referendum and that the military coup was necessary to address a political crisis.

“To only fix the problem of the coup and its consequences without addressing the political problems that came before that, will that lead to a perfect democracy?” lawmaker Wanchai Sornsiri said during the debate.

Thailand has seen 20 constitutions and 13 coups since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.

Source: Reuters, Asia One

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