Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mr. Suthep Goes to Parliament

Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the Thai anti-government movement, asks people to clear the way into the side gate of the Thai Parliament during the protest Monday.

The anti-government protestors moved their protest site from Lumpini Park back to Democracy Monument Monday. Protestors also descended on the Parliament to ask the Senate to impose a new Prime Minister on Thailand.
A PDRC protestor cheers for Suthep in front of the Parliament.

Former PM, Yingluck Shinawatra, was ousted by the courts last week. The court also ousted nine members of her cabinet but left the rest of the cabinet intact and the Prime Minister's position fell to the ranking surviving member of the cabinet. Suthep got some of what he wanted (Yingluck out of the body politic) but not all of what he wanted (the Shinawatra clan out of the body politic) and since he's demanding all or nothing and refusing to negotiate, the court's ruling wasn't enough. 

Yingluck dissolved the Parliament last year and called new parliamentary elections. Suthep organized a boycott of the election and ruffians, allegedly aligned with Suthep, violently disrupted electoral registration and voting and the electoral commission nullified the election. As a result, there is no functioning lower house of parliament (called the Parliament). 

In Thailand's bicameral system, the upper house of the parliament, called the Senate, is elected separately. About half of the Senate is elected and half appointed. Populists in Thailand maintain that the selection method of the Senators ensures that the Senate is mostly anti-Pheu Thai (the ruling party). Members of the political minority maintain that it's a part of checks and balances. In any case, the Senate is decidedly less friendly to Pheu Thai and the Shinawatra dynasty than the lower house. 
Soldiers guard the front of the Senate. 

Suthep is demanding the Senate, with the courts' assistance, appoint a new PM but it's not clear that they have the constitutional authority to do so, at least so long as there is a Pheu Thai Prime Minister. Previous court rulings, what some call "judicial coups," in Thailand have resulted in the ruling party being banned in which case the task of creating a government falls to the remaining parties. Which is how Thailand ended up with a Democrat government in 2009-2010 (the Democrat government was not elected and were trounced in the 2011 election). Pheu Thai has not been banned yet so it's not clear that the Senate or the courts have the legal authority to name a new PM. 
Suthep meets with representatives of the Senate before marching into the Parliament to meet with the Senate leadership.

Suthep arrived at the Parliament to a hero's welcome late in the afternoon. His supporters blocked the roads around the building. Suthep and a couple of hundred supporters marched to the side entrance and blocked the street until representatives of the Senate leadership came out to talk to him. 

After a brief negotiation, Suthep stood, and to a roar of approval from the crowd, marched into a meeting with Senate leadership. The media scrambled to follow him in. 
Suthep walks into the Senate meeting and sees how many photographers and reporters were waiting. 

The public part of the meeting was very brief. Suthep greeted the acting Speaker of the Senate, pleasantries were exchanged and then the media was asked to leave. 
Suthep (left) and Surachai Liangboonlertchai, acting Speaker of the Senate. 

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