Police, military prepare for mass protests if Pita’s bid to be PM is thwarted

SUNDAY, JUNE 25, 2023

The armed forces and the Royal Thai Police are discussing security measures to implement if turmoil and violence erupts should Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat fail to be elected prime minister in the middle of next month, military and police sources said.

They said the armed forces and police fear that supporters of Move Forward and its major coalition party, Pheu Thai, may stage violent protests if the Move Forward-led coalition of 313 MPs fails to win support from 63 senators or MPs from other parties to elect Pita as the next prime minister of Thailand.

The coalition needs 63 more votes from either senators or MPs, or a combination of both, when the House and Senate convene for a joint session to elect Thailand’s 30th prime minister.

Pita will need a majority of the votes from 750 MPs and senators to be elected prime minister.

The joint session will likely convene July 13, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam. told a June 20 meeting of the caretaker Cabinet.

The 500 newly-elected MPs will be sworn in at a state ceremony on July 3, according to a royal decree.

House of Representatives secretary-general Pornpit Phetcharoen said on Saturday that after the July 3 ceremony was held on July 3, the House may convene its first meeting on July 4 so that MPs can elect the House speaker and two deputy speakers.

Pornpit said most political parties had agreed to convene the House meeting at 9.30am on July 4 to elect the House speaker, but two or three political parties had yet to confirm the time and date.

After the House speaker is elected, a joint session of the two chambers must be held within 10 days to elect the prime minister.

Pita’s supporters are still keeping their fingers crossed for support from senators.

Several senators have vowed not to vote for Pita as the next prime minister, saying his party is opposed to Article 112 (the lese majeste law).

Sources said a meeting of representatives of the armed forces and police concluded that supporters of Move Forward and Pheu Thai plan to rally ahead of the vote for prime minister to increase pressure on senators.

However, they are uncertain whether they will rally at Parliament on the day of the vote to select the prime minister.

They have agreed that police will be form the front line to ensure security around Parliament while the three armed forces battalions will be on standby to send reinforcements if requested by police.

The police will require organisers of all rallies with more than five people to seek permission before they gather at Parliament.

All security cameras around Parliament will be checked to ensure they are functioning properly in case police need footage from them to take legal action against any protester suspected of violating the law, the sources said.

They said security agencies fear that protests will erupt nationwide if Pita fails to win enough votes to become the prime minister.

Security officials are closely monitoring social media to gauge public opinion and will adapt their strategy based on social media posts.

The Army has instructed all soldiers in barracks near Parliament to be on standby. They include the Anti-aircraft Artillery Division, the First Cavalry Regiment, and the Fourth Cavalry Battalion, as well as the Communications Regiment.

The Royal Thai Navy’s Bangkok naval base is ready to provide reinforcements, sources added.

It has patrol boats ready to transport security personnel along the Chao Phraya River.

All foreign trips by military and police leaders have been cancelled ahead of the vote for Thailand’s next prime minister so that they can monitor the situation, the sources said.