BANGKOK – Thailand’s military junta has stressed that it will not allow any political protests over the possible impeachment of former politicians allied to the deposed government.
Thaworn Senniam, a leader of the Yellowshirt movement that staged street protests against the previous government, previously hinted of organising new round of protests if the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) fails to impeach Somsak Kiatsuranond and Nikom Waiyaratchapanich, who served Parliament and Senate Speakers in 2013, respectively.
Responding to Thaworn's threat, former Pheu Thai MP Worachai Hema also vowed to mobilise supporters of his party, known as the Redshirts, if the NLA does impeach Somsak and Nikom for their effort last year to amend the 2007 constitution to make it more democratic.
But Gen. Anupong Paochinda, Minister of Interior Affairs and a member of the military junta, said yesterday that all political camps must refrain from staging protests for the sake of the peace and order.
According to Gen. Anupong, Prime Minister and junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha "will not tolerate" any street protests.
"You can have different opinions. The government will not interfere with that," Gen. Anupong told reporters. "But if you bring people onto the streets and cause a dispute, we won't have any of that."
Gen. Prayuth, who in addition to PM is the chairman of junta's National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), previously warned that in the event of street protests, the NCPO may invoke Section 44 of the 2014 Interim Constitution, which permits it to intervene in matters related to "national security.”
However, Gen. Udomdet Sitabutr, commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Army, insisted that Gen. Prayuth would prefer to solve the conflict by "creating understanding.”
"The Prime Minister is not considering to use Section 44 to control the situation," Gen. Udomdet explained. "The Prime Minister merely brought it up to remind everyone that the NCPO still has the power to proceed with it. But he will not use it immediately. He has stressed that we have to create understanding with dissenters."
The army chief added that security officers have already contacted Worachai and Thaworn to "try to reach understanding with them."
"Political discussion should not lead to disputes or instigate the people to do inappropriate things," Gen. Udomdet said. "I want all of the political groups to express their opinions to the National Reform Council [instead of protesting]."
Somsak and Nikom are facing impeachment for facilitating the Pheu Thai party’s attempt to amend the 2007 Constitution in April 2013 to make the Senate fully-elected, as opposed to half-appointed and half-elected.
The Constitutional Court blocked the amendment in November and declared it unconstitutional. Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) then urged the Senate to impeach Somsak and Nikom and bar them from politics for their roles in the amendment attempt.
The impeachment case has been passed along to the NLA, which was formed after the coup and whose members were handpicked by the junta. On 6 November a majority of the NLA members voted to deliberate on the impeachment. Talks are set to officially begin on 27 November.
If found guilty of abuse of power as charged by the NACC, Somsak and Nikom could be banned from holding political office for the next five years.