House Speaker Proposes Booting Armed Forces Out of Senate

A file photo of the six commanders of the Thai armed forces. They include chiefs of the police, army, navy, air force, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defense.

BANGKOK — A proposal by House Speaker Chuan Leekpai to rid the upper house of military commanders was met with support and dissent on Thursday.

Several Democrat and Pheu Thai members said they back the move, which Chuan said would lessen military influence in politics, whereas a junta-appointed Senator said such amendment risks interfering with the Senate’s authority.

“If they go ahead with the plan, would that amount to seizing power from the Senate?” Seri Suwanpanon told reporters. “Because other people might propose their own motions, too, and the Senate’s power would be taken away entirely.”

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He continued, “Whatever they want to amend, they should not touch the Senator clause.”

Under the 2017 constitution drafted by the junta and approved in a referendum, six seats in the upper house must be held by the incumbent commanders of the armed forces for five years after the charter was enacted.

“The six individuals would be here for only five years, which isn’t that long. Two years have passed already,” Seri said.

But Democrat MP Thepthai Seanapong said having military commanders in the Senate runs against democratic principles because Senators are supposed to scrutinize and act as a counterbalance to the authorities.

Pheu Thai MP Somkid Chuekong also endorses Chuan’s proposal.

“Generals should not be interfering in politics,” Somkid said.

Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam declined to comment on the matter.

The 250-seat upper house is mostly stacked with military and police officers along with allies of PM Prayuth Chan-ocha and other pro-establishment figures.

They include 15 former members of Prayuth’s Cabinet during his five years in power as the junta chief, as well as many members of the unelected parliament that served under his junta.

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