BANGKOK — Senate Speaker Surachai Liangboonlertchai has insisted that solutions to the ongoing political crisis not be restricted by legal boundaries.
"Legal experts should not try to use the laws to reject solutions offered by any side," Mr. Surachai said after a meeting with university rectors to discuss ways out of Thailand's protracted political conflict.
"It will turn laws into shackles for this country," Mr. Surachai said.
In the past week, the Senate Speaker has held a series of meetings with different agencies and organisations, seeking input on how to reconcile the political conflict that pits the embattled government of acting Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisarn against anti-government protesters and their backers in the establishment.
Reporters were not allowed to observe today’s meeting with university rectors at the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA), but according to Mr. Surachai, the discussion was "highly beneficial" to the Senate’s effort to resolve the country's turmoil.
Mahidol University Rector Ratchata Ratchatanawin told reporters that he and other rectors told Mr. Surachai that Thailand needs a new government that can exercise its power fully, because the current caretaker government's limited power has caused the nation to "almost grind to a halt," further escalating the violence.
However, Mr. Ratchata stressed that the "new government" has to be formed in a constitutional manner.
"The discussion today did not bring up any method that is above the constitution," Mr. Ratchata said.
Rectors from 21 universities across Thailand attended the forum with Mr. Surachai today, while five universities refused to send any delegates.
After the meeting, Mr. Surachai asked the media not to "mislead" the public by claiming that he has already lent his support to anti-government protesters' demand for a "neutral" PM to be appointed by the Senate and approved by His Majesty the King.
"The public should know that we do not work with any bias or sympathy for any political side. Although the people have different opinions, they are still the people of Thailand all the same," Mr. Surachai said. "Therefore, the Senate has to take care of all sides, in order to bring our country back to a happy peace."
Governmental officials and pro-government supporters have dismissed the proposal to appoint a new, unelected PM under Artilce 7 as unlawful.
Mr. Surachai added that he still hopes the government and the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) will take part in the Senate's discussions.
The UDD has boycotted the Senate's 'discussion tour,’ denouncing it as a masked attempt to legitimise anti-government protesters' demands for an unelected PM. Acting PM Niwatthamrong has said he will only meet with Mr. Surachai in a separate, informal meeting.
The ruling Pheu Thai Party has also released a statement criticising the effort by Mr. Surachai to present himself as a mediator to the current conflict, noting that Mr. Surachai has no legal power to convene a Senate meeting to vote on any matter.
The statement denounces any attempt by the Senate to pave the way for an appointment of an unelected Prime Minister as unconstitutional, and repeats Pheu Thai's calls for the next election to be arranged as soon as possible.
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