Pheu Thai Backs Off From Removing Junta’s Senate

A file photo of an anti-government protest in Bangkok.

BANGKOK — A spokesman for the Pheu Thai Party on Wednesday confirmed the party decided not to seek immediate removal of the junta-appointed Senate and defended the move as a “realistic” path toward the drafting of a new charter.

The party voted on Tuesday that it will not touch the Senate, whose members were largely selected by Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha when he was the junta leader, spokesman Chumsai Sriyapai said. The announcement prompted criticism from the pro-democracy camp, who saw it as a sign that Pheu Thai is wavering in its opposition to the government.

“This charter has been designed to make any amendment very difficult,” Chumsai said. “So we need to make it easier to amend the charter first. In order to amend the charter to pave way for a charter drafters, we need one third of the Senate votes, or at least 84 votes, which is very difficult for an appointed Senate.”

The spokesman also urged the pro-democracy protesters to understand the party’s strategy.


“Do not be in haste,” Chumsai said. “Rely on reasoning more than emotions. The situation requires us to move step by step.”

“We are aware that those in powers have near absolute power and it would be difficult to have everything at the same time.”

The Senate is stacked with members of the armed forces, bureaucrats, and those with close connection to the junta that ruled Thailand from 2014 to 2019. Gen. Prayut’s brother, Preecha Chan-o-cha, also serves as a Senator.

Anti-government protest leaders said the Upper House, which effectively acts a rubber stamp for the government, is detrimental to the democratic principles and should be removed in the new charter.

Baramee Chaiyarat, a protest leader who has been recently charged with sedition and other offenses, on Wednesday wrote his disapproval of Pheu Thai Party’s decisions on social media.


But when reached for a phone interview, Baramee said he is not disappointed at the political parties who do not pursue the goals demanded by the protest movement.

“I am not disappointed at Pheu Thai or Move Forward. Political parties are institutions and in the end must preserve itself,” he said. “We have bypassed them. They have their sets of reasoning but that’s not the reasoning of the people. We don’t need to wait and there is no need for that as protest leaders like Penguin have gone beyond that.”

He was referring to activist Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak who called for a 10-point reform of the monarchy institution. No opposition parties have adopted Parit’s demand as their platform so far.