Thai Lawmakers Weigh Creating Committee in Bid to End Protests

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Thai lawmakers are weighing a proposal to set up a committee to explore ways to end the monthslong anti-government protests sweeping the Southeast Asian nation.

A working group is looking at a panel proposed by Deputy Premier Jurin Laksanawisit, House Speaker Chuan Leekpai said on Tuesday. Parliament is set to wrap up a special two-day session convened to discuss the escalating protest movement later in the day.

Pro-democracy groups, which have been holding daily street protests since the middle of this month in Bangkok and other cities, vowed to stage more rallies if they didn’t like the result from parliament. On Monday, they separately petitioned the German government to probe King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s legal status during his stay in the European country.

“We’re assessing the situation daily to plan our next move,” said Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, a protest leader. “We submitted a letter to the German embassy, so we’re still waiting for a response, and we still have to listen to what the parliament has to say today.”

Thai Lawmakers Weigh Creating Committee in Bid to End Protests

Charter Changes

The protesters want Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha to resign, changes to a constitution written after a 2014 coup and greater accountability and transparency for the monarchy -- the most powerful institution in the country. The demonstrators have also drawn support from opposition parties for some of the demands such as Prayuth’s ouster and charter amendment.

“The session was just a move to show that the government is working on finding solutions, but in fact they haven’t really considered the input from the protesters and the public,” said Virot Ali, a lecturer at Thammasat University’s Faculty of Political Science. “A committee that would be set up likely won’t result in anything. It won’t de-escalate the protest movement.”

The protesters have broken long-held taboos about publicly criticizing the royal family, with demands for the monarch to no longer endorse coups, provide transparency in how funds are spent, and get rid of laws that stifle discussion of the royal family. The unprecedented targeting of the monarchy has also triggered rallies by pro-royalists, raising fears of clashes between the rival groups.

Prayuth has struggled to quell the protest movement, forcing him to withdraw a state of emergency in the capital within a week of its imposition and asking protesters to “take a step back” to de-escalate the situation. On Monday, Prayuth told parliament that it can take up the charter amendment process next month and conclude discussions in December.

The suggestions of past reconciliation committees in Thailand have largely gone ignored, including recommendations issued after a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 2010.

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