Most Senators Ditch Meeting to Discuss Charter Amendment

A Senate parliamentary session on Aug. 5, 2020.

BANGKOK — Only two out of 60 invited Senators showed up the Tuesday meeting to discuss the proposals to amend the charter that guarantees their places in the upper house.

Previous media reports say the 60 junta-appointed Senators agreed to meet and discuss the amendment, which is being sought by the anti-government protesters and even some members of the coalition parties. Detractors say the charter is undemocratic and should be redrafted, though factions disagree on how. 

The only two Senators who showed up for the 3pm meeting were Direkrit Jankrongtham and Kittisak Rattanawaraha.

Direkrit said other Senators decided not to attend the meeting due to the large number of reporters present at the meeting room, and they were afraid of being in the news. 

He added that he will confer with fellow lawmakers on the Line chat group about what to do next, because many do not want to reveal their identities.

Direkrit also said the group of 60 Senators are not an organized faction, and that they simply joined the chat room in order to exchange perspectives and information about the amendment; he said not every member of the group shared the same views. 

The draft of the current Constitution was approved by a majority of the votes in a 2016 referendum, though the voting process was marred by arrests of activists opposed to the charter. 

The same charter allows then-junta chief Prayut Chan-o-cha to handpick his own candidates for most of the 250 Senate seats, including his own brother, Preecha Chan-o-cha. The rest of the quota went to commanders of the armed forces. 

Move Forward Party MP Rangsiman Rome said on the phone Tuesday afternoon that he still hopes a sufficient number of Senators will support the charter amendment; under the current regulations, such motions need the endorsement of a third of the Senate, or 83 Senators. 

“I think the best way to convince the Senators is not to hold a sit-down meeting but to foster an ambience, which will compel them to vote in a certain direction,” Rangsiman said.

“I still have hope that it’s possible,” he added. 

A total of 76 opposition MPs and 23 government lawmakers also lodged the joint bid to amend the charter’s Section 256, which is responsible for the unappointed Senators.

The 76 lawmakers in the opposition bloc, who signed up for the charter amendment bid, include 54 MPs of the Move Forward Party, 10 MPs of the Thai Liberal Party, six MPs of the Prachachat Party, five MPs of the Puea Chat Party and one MP of the Thai People Power Party.

The 23 legislators of the government parties, who endorsed the amendment bid, include 16 MPs of the Democrat Party, one MP of the Bhumjaithai Party, one MP of the Chartthaipattana Party and those of five splinter parties, each of which only has one MP and is practically viewed as a partner of the coalition government.

Nevertheless, the Pheu Thai Party, the biggest opposition party, has declined to join Tuesday’s move among the MPs on both sides of the parliament aisle and apparently preferred to focus on the planned amendment to the constitution’s Section 256 instead.

Additional reporting by Xinhua News Agency.