Royalist Group Submits 130,000 Names Opposing Charter Rewrite

Warong Dechgitvigrom and his supporters flash the alternative three-finger salute honoring the three pillars of "Nation, Religions, and Monarchy" during their a rally in front of the Parliament on Sept. 23, 2020.

BANGKOK — A pro-establishment activist group on Wednesday submitted a petition to the Parliament urging the lawmakers to halt the effort to amend the Constitution. The move came just before the Parliament is scheduled to vote on various proposals to amend the junta-sponsored charter on Thursday.

Thai Phakdee group leader Warong Dechgitvigrom said he has collected 130,000 names to back the attempt to amend or rewrite the charter. The petition was accepted by Vice President of the Senate Supachai Somcharoen.

“We are expressing our will,” Warong said in a phone interview. “We should allow the charter to function first.” 

Read: Protesters to March on Parliament, Press for New Charter

Asked why the list of signatures collected online contains no copies of ID cards that could be used to verify the petitioners, Warong said there is no law requiring it as this is a collective letter of intent, not one supporting a change of law.

“They can call and check if these people truly exist,” Warong added. He also said some lawmakers are seeking to amend the charter in order to make it easier for them to engage in corruption and vote buying

The junta-sponsored draft of the Constitution was approved by a majority of the votes in a 2016 referendum, though critics said the suppression and arrests of anti-government activists prior to the vote meant it was an unfair contest.

Warong Dechgitvigrom on Sept. 23, 2020.

“Changing the charter is a matter of the people so it must be the people who must give consent first,” said Warong, adding that he is open to a referendum on whether the charter should be amended, redrafted, or kept as it is.

Opponents of the charter said it weakened democratic mechanisms by introducing an all-appointed Senate, enshrining the junta’s “20-Year Strategy,” and allowing an unelected official to be selected as the Prime Minister. 

Democrat Party, a member of the pro-government coalition, has said it will support amending the charter. But its leader Jurin Laksanawisit said on Wednesday that the party will push for a more democratic charter, but won’t touch sections on the monarchy institution. 

Jurin also acknowledged that some party MPs may not vote in support of the charter amendment on Thursday.