Months of protests against the government have called for Prayuth’s resignation and reform into a powerful monarchy.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha rejected calls by opposition parties to resign during a two-day special session of parliament he convened to discuss months of protests calling for his departure and reforms of the powerful monarchy.
“I’m not going to run away from problems. I will not abandon my duty by resigning at a time when the country is in trouble, ”the former ruler of the army told the gathering on Tuesday. The entire upper house of parliament is elected by the military.
Protests, which have brought tens of thousands of people to the streets since mid-July, are the biggest challenge in years for an establishment that has long been dominated by the military near the Royal Palace.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s palace has not commented since the protests began, which have broken a taboo over criticism of the monarchy.
Prayuth said the rallies, which he called illegal protests, needed to be brought under control.
“Although the people are free to protest on the basis of the constitution, the authorities must control the illegal protests,” said the Prime Minister.
“We don’t want to see clashes or riots in the country,” he added, accusing some protesters of “improper actions”.
Protesters in Thailand accepted the three-finger salute of the Hunger Games [Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters]Opposition MPs urged Prayuth to stop hiding behind proclamations of loyalty to the monarchy and to resign. His critics said he held the election last year to keep the power he seized in 2014. He said the vote was fair.
“You have been in power for six and a half years – five years after your coup and one and a half years when you benefited from an undemocratic constitution,” said Prasert Jantararuangthong, party secretary of the Pheu Thai Party opposition.
“I urge General Prayut to resign as Prime Minister, which would be a solution to solve all problems.”
One of the protest leaders, Tattep “Ford” Ruangprapaikitseree, dismissed the parliamentary session as “useless”.
Prayuth said he agreed to set up committees to investigate the issues but claimed he did not know who to speak to because “there are no leaders.” They are all leaders. “
Some of the most high-profile leaders are among the dozen of people arrested this month under a week of emergency measures that were lifted after sparking much larger protests.
A royalist supporter displays a portrait of King Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand during a rally to show support from the royal establishment amid unprecedented calls for reform [Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP]The expressions of support by the royalists have so far been far less than those of the anti-government demonstrators.
More than 1,000 people gathered in a central park in Bangkok on Tuesday.
“We want to show His Majesty support and encouragement,” said Thatchapan Boriphet, 57. “I am politically neutral, but I can’t stand it when there is a violation of the monarchy.”
The Prime Minister’s office shared a picture of the demonstration on Twitter.
Demonstrators have accused the king of political involvement and marched to the German embassy on Monday to investigate whether he had exercised his powers during long stays in Germany, which Berlin has described as unacceptable.
The two-day parliamentary session did not include the protests on its agenda, but was set to discuss an incident earlier this month where protesters saluted three fingers – a symbol of the movement – as the royal motorcade of Queen Suthida passed by.
“The protesters say the queen is not planned to go this route, but the government says she can go anywhere,” said Tankhun Jittitsara, one of the secretaries of house spokesman Chuan Leekpai.
“Nobody knows the truth, so we’ll talk about it.”
Three activists were charged with the incident under a seldom-used law prohibiting “violence against the queen” and imposing a maximum sentence for life in prison.