Thailand’s parliament is back in business today for an extraordinary session dictated by intensifying youth-led protests which will target Bangkok’s Embassy of Germany in a less-than-subtle jab at the palace.
“The cabinet agreed this is a major problem that would affect the governance of the country” and is convening the extraordinary session to try and find a solution, according to a letter from the Cabinet released last week.
While no agenda has been officially put out, the joint session of the lower and upper houses will address the protestors’ core demands: the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha – which did not happen by their Saturday deadline –and his cabinet, constitutional changes drafted by public groups, and reform of the constitutional monarchy.
What’s not immediately understood by many is that special parliamentary sessions cannot, by law, vote on any resolutions. Instead, recommendations can be made.
Political observers are skeptical senators and MPs will settle on any solutions due to the country’s polarization. Expect plenty of sarcastic jabs and verbal attacks with little substance.
Protest leaders, who see the special session as just a set up just to whitewash Prayut, have their own plans Monday, specifically marching to the German embassy in a symbolic move mocking HM the King Maha Vajiralongkorn for spending most of his time there.
Earlier this month, the German government made a rare public statement against the King conducting Thai state business while at his hotel retreat.
“We would always clearly counteract efforts by guests in our country to conduct affairs of state from our country,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in parliament, responding to a query from an opposition lawmaker about the Thai monarch.
Back in Thailand, HM the King on Friday’s Chulalongkorn Day celebrating the king who ended slavery in old Siam, and other members of the royal family mingled with royal supporters. The King stepped out of his motorcade to meet ordinary Thais in yellow shirts gathered outside the Grand Palace.
“Very brave, very brave, very good, thank you,” the King told a man who had challenged anti-government protesters on Wednesday and raised a picture of the king’s late father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, during an anti-government protest outside a Central department store in Bangkok’s Pinklao district. A video clip of the incident went viral.
Protesters are not expected to back down as parliament attempts to buy time.
Opposition parties have been granted eight hours to debate and propose solutions to the crisis. The government and Senate were granted around five hours each.
Prayut’s Palang Pracharath Party will deploy its best speechmakers to boost both the former general who led the 2014 coup and protect the monarchy, which its MPs feel should not be touched.
The key player in all of it will be Chuan Leekpai, the House speaker and a former prime minister who will set the agenda and could even step in if Prayut quits.
So far, Uncle Tu has given no hint he will do so.