House mulls meet to end unrest

House mulls meet to end unrest

Chuan to meet govt, opposition on Friday

Protesters, many of them wearing raincoats, crowd around Victory Monument, the primary site of the rallies on Sunday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Protesters, many of them wearing raincoats, crowd around Victory Monument, the primary site of the rallies on Sunday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

House Speaker Chuan Leekpai is scheduled to unofficially meet government and opposition representatives on Friday to discuss the possibility of holding a special parliamentary session as anti-government protests continued on Sunday.

Mr Chuan said both sides have agreed to discuss whether an extraordinary House session should be held to address the political situation before parliament reconvenes on Nov 1.

He said he has asked parliament officials to prepare for the session, which was called for by the Pheu Thai Party in the wake of the protests. Several lawmakers from other parties have also discussed the possibility of convening a special session, but to date none has submitted a formal motion, Mr Chuan added.

"I would have done it if I could, but it is something that needs to be proposed by the government or members of parliament. We're closely monitoring the situation to see what the House can do.

"We're coordinating with government and opposition MPs quietly, so it won't heap pressure on any side. We're scheduled to meet again on Friday," he said.

Somboon Uthaiwiankul, secretary to Mr Chuan, said on Sunday a special session can be sought by the cabinet or by MPs or senators.

The cabinet can ask His Majesty the King for a royal decree to convene an extraordinary session, as outlined by Section 122 of the charter.

A special session can also be convened if one-third of lawmakers from both houses of parliament request a motion for a special session.

Mr Somboon also said a charter amendment bill proposed by civil group iLaw could be placed on parliament's agenda late next month if the authenticity of the supporters' signatures can be verified in time.

On Sunday, three main coalition parties separately released statements relating to the protests, voicing their support for charter amendment to resolve the political conflict.

Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) leader Prawit Wongsuwo said while it supports the charter amendment process, chapters 1 and 2 of the charter -- which deals with the monarchy -- must remain untouched.

Democrat leader Jurin Laksanavisit said the conflict should be addressed through peaceful means and that scrutiny of charter amendment drafts should proceed without delay.

Meanwhile, Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul said a charter amendment will help reduce the tension.

Pheu Thai Party's secretary-general Prasert Jantararuangtong said on Sunday the party would send representatives to join the meeting.

However, the party insisted on calling for the revocation of the Serious Emergency Situation in Bangkok and the release of all arrested protesters -- which includes former Pheu Thai MP, Tossaporn Serirak, who is facing jail time for violating the Emergency Decree. He turned himself to the police on Sunday.

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said that while Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has said that the people have the right to protest, it must be done in accordance with the law.

He said officials must beware of people who might abuse the gatherings for political gain, he said.

At 3pm on Sunday, organisers announced Victory Monument in Bangkok as the principal rally site in their bid to dislodge the government of Gen Prayut and push for democratic reforms. The rally -- as well as supporting rallies held at other locations -- ended at 8pm.

In a bid to prevent crowds from gathering, authorities invoked the Emergency Decree to order the operators of BTS Skytrain and MRT to close some stations from 2.30pm until 9pm, after which services were restored to normal frequency.

In the morning, the Free Youth movement had posted a Facebook message calling on protesters to gather at skytrain and underground metro stations without announcing the locations of the rallies in a bid to stay ahead of the authorities.

As of 7pm, 4,000 protesters had joined the rally at the Victory Monument, 1,500 people attended the rally at Bang Na intersection and about 600 attended the protest at Asoke intersection, a police source said.

Anti-government protests also took place in other provinces around the country including Nakhon Pathom, Chiang Mai, Suphan Buri, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima, Si Sa Ket and Songkhla.

Some scuffles were reported at Bang Na intersection as the rally was about to end, after some street lights along the road went out.

A group of protesters tried to damage a nearby police booth, but was dissuaded from doing so by another group.

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