Royal Troops Transfer Looms Over Tomorrow’s Parliament Debate

The army's 1st Division seen at a military parade on Jan. 18, 2019. Image: Royal Thai Army.

BANGKOK — The government is set to defend its emergency decree that handed two army units to His Majesty the King’s direct control when the parliament meets on Thursday.

The order was issued on Sep. 30 by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha without parliament’s approval, citing unspecified “emergency” for its urgent enactment. Under Thai laws, such decrees must be scrutinized and debated in parliament after they are proclaimed.

The decree transferred the 1st and 11th Infantry Divisions from the army’s structure and put them under the king’s personal command, ostensibly for better coordination in providing security to the Royal Family.

Read: ‘Emergency Order’ Transfers Army Units to King’s Command

Tomorrow’s session will focus mostly on whether the government’s decision to enact the law unilaterally without going through the usual parliamentary channel was appropriate, and not the merits of the transfer itself.

Pro-democracy activist Arnon Nampha urged the opposition to vote down the decree because there was no real emergency that warrants its bypassing of parliament. He also said severing the army’s chain of command over the two units would lead to legal complications.

“Members of the Parliament must have the courage to stand up and prevent the risks of expanding royal power, in order to protect the principle of democracy with the King as head of state,” Arnon wrote online on Tuesday.

But there are signs that the opposition will not put up much of a fight due to the sensitive nature of the Royal Decree. Major parties are expected to pose no challenge, while a BBC Thai report said some MPs in the Future Forward Party have urged their executives to abstain.

Responding to the article, Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit said on Tuesday the party has not made any decision regarding the votes.

PM Prayuth said today he will let the parliament discuss the decree without interference from the executive branch.

Thursday’s parliament session will also debate the government’s budget of 3.2 trillion baht for the 2020 fiscal year.

Note: Some details were omitted from this article due to legal concerns.