Bangkok, Nov 17 (efe-epa).- Thailand’s parliament on Tuesday began debating constitutional reforms amid anti-government protests spearheaded by a student-led movement.
The protesters consider the current constitution a product of the country’s former military junta and are demanding the reform of the monarchy and pro-monarchy groups.
The Thai lawmakers will debate and then vote on several reform proposals presented by the government, the opposition, and a more progressive one submitted by the Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw), which has the support of 100,000 signatures.
More than 1,300 police officials are in the vicinity of the parliament.
Pro-monarchy groups in yellow shirts, the color identified with King Vajiralongkorn, surrounded the parliament and carried placards defending the royal family and the government.
Demonstrators mobilized by the Ratsadon (People’s Movement) student organization have convened marches in the afternoon to urge the legislators to accept all the proposals for constitutional reform.
Since July, pro-democracy protesters have organized demonstrations almost every day to demand a new constitution in place of the current one, which was drafted by the former military junta that ruled the country between 2014 and 2019.
One of the most controversial elements in the constitution is the military’s ability to handpick 245 members of the Senate.
The students are also demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and clipping the wings of the military and the king to limit his influence in the country’s politics.
The army in Thailand has led 13 successful coups since the end of absolute royal rule in 1932.
Discussions of reform to the monarchy, which has long been shielded from public criticism by laws – is by far the most controversial demand because of the devotion the institution enjoys from millions of Thais and the lèse-majesté law, which punishes anyone who criticizes the royal house with up to 15 years in prison.
Vajiralongkorn, 68, who ascended to the throne in 2016, is less revered than his late father, Bhumibol Adulyadej, and his absence from the country and his opulent lifestyle in the mountains of Bavaria have drawn criticism during the Covid-19 pandemic, which is hitting the Thai economy hard.
The monarch, who has been in Thailand since mid-October, has also taken personal control of military units in the capital and of all Crown Property Bureau assets, estimated to be valued at more than $35 billion. EFE-EPA