BANGKOK — A pro-establishment group on Monday said they will hold a rally in front of the parliament building tomorrow to oppose an attempt to rewrite the Constitution, ahead of a protest to call for extensive charter amendments.
Warong Degitvigrom, the leader of the ultraroyalist Thai Phakdee group, said he does not expect a clash between rival demonstrators tomorrow. The former Democrat elder said his group will only gather in the morning to submit a petition against motions to amend the current constitution before dispersing at noon.
“We will hand a letter to the president of the Senate to remind the senators of the 130,000 people who signed the petition to oppose any changes to the current constitution and the benefits that come from it,” Warong said. “I’m not concerned about the clash since the other group called for a rally at 3pm.”
The call for a counter-protest was made by Warong on Saturday after anti-government protesters announced that they will gather at the parliament on Tuesday at 3pm. Activists aim to pressure lawmakers to endorse charter amendment drafts submitted by 100,732 petitioners through a legal reform group called iLaw.
A total of seven drafts were submitted to the Parliament for consideration from different entities, including the government, the opposition parties, and iLaw.
A joint parliamentary session between the House and the Senate will take place from Tuesday to Wednesday, though a vote to select the amendment drafts is not expected to take place until Wednesday evening.
The vote was delayed from September after a majority of lawmakers opted to set up a committee to study the charter amendment process first in what appeared to be an effort to calm the protesters who were laying siege to the parliament building at the time.
Warong said the current constitution, which was written under the auspices of the junta and approved by a majority of voters in a 2016 referendum, has proven effective in solving past political crises. He warned that attempts to rewrite it would only be an advantage to elected politicians.
“The redrafting of the whole constitution would only benefit politicians rather than the people,” Warong said. “Our group has examined the current charter and found that it has clear benefits to the people and the nation. Nevertheless, we are not against partial amendments of the constitution.”
Of the seven motions set to be voted by lawmakers, Warong said his group opposed three of them, which call for the establishment of a committee to draft a new charter. Such action, Warong said, would amount to an attempt to limit the monarchy’s constitutional power.
No More Street Food?
Redrafting the military-backed Constitution is one of the three key demands put forth by the pro-democracy demonstrators for the past four months, alongside PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s resignation from office and reforms of the monarchy.
Protest leaders say the current charter does not uphold democratic principles and entrusts the Royal Family with influence and political power beyond the boundary of the Constitutional Monarchy.
To pursue their goal, the protesters, led by iLaw, gathered signatories and submitted the proposed charter amendment to the Parliament in October.
Their draft calls for a replacement of the junta-appointed upper house with an elected Senate, as well as removing all current members of the so-called independent organizations as most of them were indirectly or directly selected by the junta.
Deputy metro police commander Piya Tawichai said 12 companies of police officers will be deployed in anticipation of tomorrow’s gatherings.
Lt. Gen. Piya also warned that the protesters’ plan to set up street food parties in front of the parliament building will run afoul of several laws, including a regulation on food safety.
Activists often cooked and handed out food to demonstrators in previous pro-democracy rallies. Street food stalls were also an ubiquitous sight at those protests.