Thai Cabinet approves Parliament session to debate protests

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s Cabinet yesterday approved a request to recall Parliament for a special session to deal with the political pressures from ongoing anti-government protests.

The Cabinet at its weekly meeting approved the request, which calls for a non-voting session on October 26-27.

The request for the session came from House Speaker Chuan Leekpai, who said on Monday that both government and opposition parties supported it. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha had already said earlier that he supports the move.

There is a deadlock between the government and the student-led protesters, who want Prayuth to step down, the constitution to be amended to make it more democratic, and reforms to the monarchy to have it conform to democratic norms.

The government has sought to weaken the protesters’ resolve over the past week by arresting their leaders, declaring a state of emergency for Bangkok that makes all rallies illegal, and trying to physically impede their gatherings, including by closing mass transit stations.

However, when it sent riot police backed by water cannons to break up a rally in Bangkok on Friday, it only drew widespread criticism for the use of force, and failed to discourage the protesters, who have continued to gather in large numbers every day. Protests have also spread to other provinces.

Parliament in September made its first attempt at dealing with one of the protesters’ demands when it was scheduled to vote on six proposed constitutional amendments. But the vote was cancelled at the last minute as Parliament voted instead to set up a committee to further consider such proposals.

Pro-democracy activists flash three-fingered salute during a demonstration at Kaset intersection, suburbs of Bangkok. PHOTO: AP