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Thailand’s Lawmakers to Reform the Military-Appointed Senate

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Thailand's Lawmakers to Reform the Military-Appointed Senate
The 200 new senators will now be elected: File Image

Thailand’s lawmakers approved a plan on Tuesday to select a new slate of senators for the senate who will no longer be able to vote on who becomes Prime Minister, thus eliminating the powerful military’s veto over who runs the country.

When the military rewrote the constitution during a 2014 coup, it established an appointed Senate, hand-picking its own lawmakers to ensure that junta leader Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha became prime minister when parliamentary elections resumed in 2019.

Those same senators joined forces with military-backed parties in a bicameral vote on a prime minister last year to prevent the anti-establishment Move Forward party, the surprise election victor, from establishing a government.

The current Senate term ends next month, and the chamber’s powers will be reduced by 2024, as stated into the constitution.

The 200 new senators will now be picked through a complex procedure involving groups of professionals from various areas, but those chosen will have no say in who forms the government.

Senate a military proxy

The Senate came under fire for its involvement in delaying the massively popular Move Forward Party, which won the 2023 election on a progressive platform that included confronting business monopolies and altering a stringent law that shields the powerful monarchy from criticism.

After months of stagnation, senators and army proxy groups backed the second-placed Pheu Thai party to create a government, in an almost inconceivable coalition between the royalist military and a party deposed twice in coups.

Move Forward is now the opposition and largest party in parliament, but it is facing dissolution by a court over its attempt to amend the royal insults statute.

The convoluted selection procedure for senators will now include 20 groups from areas such as law, agriculture, and media to nominate candidates who will compete at the province level.

Those groups will vote again to elect 200 new senators, but unlike in legislative elections, regular constituents will have no voice in the outcome.

Senate Stacked in Military Favor

The newly established upper chamber will be allowed to analyze laws and nominate members of independent organizations, but the elected lower house will have the final say on legislation.

Following the 2014 military coup, Thailand’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) assumed command. One of their major measures was to establish a Senate, which, on paper, serves as a check on the House of Representatives.

However, the majority of its members are military and police officials.

The Senate has a critical role in selecting the Prime Minister. This system can lead to prejudices, especially as the Senate was not elected by the public, which raises questions about the legitimacy of their power.

Thailand’s Junta-appointed Senate was a powerful body with the authority to decide the country’s future. Its influence over legislative processes and power dynamics generated concerns about democratic representation and justice.

The CTNNews editorial team comprises seasoned journalists and writers dedicated to delivering accurate, timely news coverage. They possess a deep understanding of current events, ensuring insightful analysis. With their expertise, the team crafts compelling stories that resonate with readers, keeping them informed on global happenings.

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