Demonstrators lack 'firepower'

Demonstrators lack 'firepower'

PPRP reveals reason behind charter vote

Protesters occupy Samsaen Road outside Parliament to put pressure on lawmakers to go ahead with charter amendments. (Photo: Nutthawat Wicheanbut)
Protesters occupy Samsaen Road outside Parliament to put pressure on lawmakers to go ahead with charter amendments. (Photo: Nutthawat Wicheanbut)

The ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) decided to postpone Thursday's charter amendment vote after anti-government protesters showed a lack of public support in challenging the state, PPRP sources said.

The sources said a few days before MPs and senators sat on Wednesday and Thursday to deliberate on six proposed charter amendment bills, key PPRP figures discussed the possibility of setting up a committee to study all six drafts.

It is said that some senators, such as Seree Suwanpanont, said the proposal to set up a charter drafting assembly was tantamount to drawing up a new charter without any clear framework for an amendment. Moreover, most senators were said to be upset during the two days of debate as they were heavily attacked by opposition parties.

"The opposition parties disrespected senators, and they still had the temerity to ask the senators to support their bills," the sources said.

Many senators said they would vote against the bills from the opposition parties, the sources said, adding that if a vote had been taken after the first reading on Thursday, those bills would have received the support of less than 84 out of the 250 senators.

And if the bills had been shot down, the political pressure on the state would have been more intense than the establishment of the study committee, the sources said.

Another major reason behind the PPRP's decision to delay the vote in the first reading of the bills was because the party's key figures had realised anti-government demonstrations do not have enough "firepower" to bring to bear against the state.

In particular, the protest leaders' attacks on the highest institution, the monarchy, during their recent rally on Sept 19, failed to draw support from neutral people, the sources said, adding they found the protesters' language and content hard to stomach.

The sources said Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, who is the PPRP leader, had been informed of the proposal to set up the charter amendment study committee.

He had instructed Virat Rattanaset, a chief government whip, to convince senators, and coalition partners, particularly the Democrat and Bhumjaithai Parties to support the motion to set up the committee, they said.

At first, the two coalition parties were displeased about the move, prompting a senior PPRP figure to clear the air with leaders of the two parties over the phone, the sources said. They said coalition MPs only knew about the move on Thursday evening, a few hours before the vote to set up the committee.

Chief opposition whip Sutin Klungsang said he believes the delay came after state intelligence agencies concluded protesters were not powerful enough to challenge the government.

Deputy PPRP leader Paiboon Nititawan, who proposed the committee, said the party had estimated that one anti-government rally was too small to have any impact.

Mr Paiboon also insisted the committee was not a ploy to buy time, and this is in line with the parliamentary regulations.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday denied any involvement in the delay in the charter rewrite vote, saying the postponement was in line with parliamentary rules.

He insisted he had no objection to charter amendments, adding the government's legal team was looking into the possibility of presenting the state's version of a charter amendment bill.

Gen Prayut also said he would not resign or dissolve parliament under pressure from protesters, saying this is not the right way to solve problems.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said yesterday if the government decides to submit its version of the charter rewrite bill, it will also be deliberated by a study committee alongside the other bills.

This will also be an opportunity for the version of the bill from iLaw to go to the committee, the deputy prime minister said, referring to a draft written by Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw).

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