Thai parliament REJECTS monarchial reforms amid intensifying pro-democracy protests

Thailand’s parliament on Wednesday voted to move forward with two proposals on amending the constitution but stopped short of backing a motion that included monarchical reform, amid intensifying protests against the country’s military-backed government.

The vote came a day after the worst night of violence in the country’s five-month protest movement saw live ammunition used for the first time and left 55 people injured. Thousands of protesters on Wednesday again took to the streets of Bangkok.

Members of Thailand’s Senate and the House of Representatives on Wednesday voted on seven motions that included degrees of reform to the constitution put forward by the government, the opposition and one proposal from the people.

Among the reforms discussed was the undemocratic power of the Senate, of which all of its members are handpicked by the Thai military and have the voting power to appoint the prime minister jointly with the lower house.

None of the six proposals included monarchical reform.

The seventh motion was brought by Thai social reform NGO iLaw and has received huge support from pro-democracy protesters. Their proposal would abolish the current constitution and pave the way to rewrite a new charter that would cover every chapter, including the monarchy.

That motion failed to win enough votes for approval, receiving only 212 votes from the joint sitting parliament of 732 members. It needed at least half the vote and at least a third of the Senate to pass.

Two proposals were adopted that would allow for discussion of constitutional change without affecting the monarchy. A drafting committee is to be set up after these motions are endorsed by King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Tuesday’s clashes were the most violent since the student-led movement began in July

Protesters were attempting to reach parliament, where lawmakers were debating possible changes to the constitution.

Chaos erupted after a group of demonstrators tried to cut through razor-wire barricades near parliament. They hurled smoke bombs and bags of paint at lines of riot police.

In response, police used a water cannon to try to force them back and when that failed, they used the cannon to fire a liquid laced with a tear-gas solution.

How protests began?

Thailand’s student-led democracy movement began in July, they have been calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. The former army chief had seized power in a 2014 coup before he was appointed as premier after controversial elections last year.

The protests have widened in recent months to also call for curbs on the king’s powers.

Demonstrators also demand the constitution be rewritten; that the authorities stop harassing critics and royal reform are particularly sensitive in where criticism of the monarchy is punishable by long prison sentences.

Royalists have come out to oppose the student-led demonstrations, and authorities have tried to crack down on the movement.

They believe the protesters want the abolition of the monarchy, something they deny.