General Sereepisuth Temeeyaves indicated that a complaint should be made to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and the Ombudsman concerning last Thursday’s parliamentary vote as eminent legal experts suggest it was mistaken and a clear breach of the 2017 Constitution actionable under Section 234 of the charter but the complaint should be made by Mr Pita Limjaroenrat of the Move Forward Party.
One of the leaders to the eight-party coalition has called on the Move Forward Party to sacrifice its political ambitions in the interests of the ship of state and democracy because of the current political deadlock which he compared to a ship stricken at sea. General Sereepisuth Temeeyaves of the Seri Ruam Thai Party or Thai Liberal Party told reporters that he was simply speaking the truth ‘with love’ on Friday as he explained the position to them. It comes with increasing signs that the political dance now being directed by the Pheu Thai Party will eventually involve both the Palang Pracharat Party and the Bhumjaithai Party in advance of the next parliamentary vote on July 27th next when Pheu Thai’s Srettha Thavisin is set to be nominated. However, nothing can be taken for granted at this time as the stakes are high on all sides and it becomes quite clear that a conservative-led plot is unfolding that leverages Section 272 of the Charter, Constitutional Court petitions and the power of the Senate together with widespread sensitivities relating to Article 112 of the Criminal Code dealing with defamation of the monarchy, to dictate the makeup if not the leadership of Thailand’s next government.
On Friday afternoon, after a meeting of the eight parties to the coalition formed in the aftermath of the May 14th General Election involving the Move Forward and Pheu Thai parties and six other political groups, the veteran leader of the Seri Ruam Thai Party or Thai Liberal Party, Police General Sereepisuth Temeeyaves, a former National Police Chief in 2007/2008 and a respected MP in the last Parliament whose contributions follow a theme of upholding the rule of law and constitutional propriety, suggested that the time had come for the Move Forward Party to sacrifice itself in the long-term interests of the state and democracy.
General Sereepisuth made a comparison to a ship stalled at sea in danger of capsizing and the proper approach to rescuing passengers from the stricken vessel.
He made his comments as the Move Forward party leader took some time out from the bruising theatre of Thai politics to be with his young daughter Pipim until Saturday.
Party leader compared Thailand’s democracy to a ship stricken at sea and the young Move Forward Party must do the honourable thing and sacrifice itself
‘Now it is like being stranded in the middle of the sea. The ship may capsize. There are old people, women and children. Shall we put young people on board first? We have to let children, old people, and women go first. We take the risk first. When the second boat comes we slowly go. It isn’t that young men jump on the first boat and go and let the rest risk adventure. Now there must be sacrifices for democracy to go in Thailand. If there is no sacrifice, it cannot go,’ he explained to reporters.
General Sereepisuth leads a party that was decimated in this May’s election with the Seri Ruam Thai Party having won 10 seats in the 2019 poll under the single ballot system which favoured small parties while in this election, returning with only General Sereepisuth himself as an MP because of the revised two ballot system which significantly favoured the Move Forward and Pheu Thai parties.
The former police chief and political leader is reported to have been outspoken behind the scenes about the need for the coalition to change tactics this week.
He called for the bloc to reach out to other parties in the House of Representatives given the constitutional provisions including the controversial Section 272 clause which gives the Senate an effective block over the path to power for the democratic coalition bloc which represents 62% of seats in the House of Representatives and up to 75% of voters.
General Sereepisuth agrees that now is not the time to amend Article 112 but argued that reform of the Criminal Code and laws was nothing new in Thailand
General Sereepisuth also concurred with other members of the Eight Party Coalition aside from the Move Forward Party, that there was a need to sideline any plan to amend Article 112 of the Criminal Code, which is one of the reasons why the issue was not included in the Programme for Government of the group when it was finalised as a blueprint on the 22nd May 2023, the ninth anniversary of the 2014 coup d’état.
Thailand is facing a deep political crisis as Pita loses a key vote and top court takes up complaints
Then, it was a plan for a ‘Government of Hope’ but a lot has suddenly changed in the last week since parliament first met to elect a new prime minister on July 13th.
On Friday, General Sereepisuth surprised many reporters when he suggested that the current widespread inhibition that pervades parliament, aside from the Move Forward Party, linked with interfering with the provisions of the criminal code may be misplaced.
He said it is something new in Thai politics pointing out that the Criminal Code had been amended and modernised in 1956 to reflect Thailand’s status as a constitutional monarchy.
Criminal code has been amended up to 30 times in Thailand since 1956 when it was first compiled for the modern state, a constitutional monarchy after 1932
Thailand’s criminal code, as we now know it, was first introduced at the beginning of the 20th century under Thai King Chulalongkorn before it was reformatted, revised and promulgated again in 1956 under King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 24 years after Thailand became a constitutional monarchy from the old state of Siam in 1932.
The code has been amended up to 30 times since then by the legislature under the direction of the government, a process that is normal in all countries governed by constitutional law but Article 112 has remained intact.
However, the current Prime Minister General Prayut Chan ocha, in 2020, announced that the lèse-majesté provision would no longer be enforced at the personal request of His Majesty King Vajiralongkorn or Rama X.
He reversed course later that year in the face of street protests which erupted in the middle of 2023 demanding constitutional reform and which became increasingly violent with intense clashes seen in Bangkok with officers of the Royal Thai Police.
Pheu Thai sacrificed its political ambitions in 2019 in favour of Palang Pracharat observed the veteran MP saying it was the truth spoken ‘with love’
General Sereepisuth was questioned at length by reporters on Friday as to why the Move Forward Party, which won the May 14th poll, should surrender its position to facilitate the creation of a new government.
He pointed to the 2019 election which was won by the Pheu Thai Party which ultimately had to give way to the Palang Pracharat Party to allow a government to be formed led by General Prayut.
Asked then if he was nervous about communicating this to the leadership of the Move Forward Party, which on Friday still indicated that it was part of the eight-party coalition, General Sereepisuth said: ‘I’m not afraid, I’m telling the truth and speak with love.’
Regarding Article 112, he emphasised that his position and that of his party is that the current criminal code provision known as Article 112 should not be amended but he understood the views of others on the subject.
He pointed out that as a former police chief and veteran MP, he knew it was still possible to amend the Thai constitution so why not the criminal law?
As a former police chief, General Sereepisuth says he is aware of the complex situation created in Thailand and the effect of the Article 112 provision
However, he cautioned it is not something that he would advise at this time.
General Sereepisuth recalled that as police chief he had found himself having to deal with the complexities created by Article 112.
‘If there is an amendment this year it is not wrong because Article 112 is the criminal code. The constitution can still be amended. Why can’t the criminal law be fixed?’ he said.
The political activist and former top policeman is on record as suggesting that the offence of threatening the monarchy should be separately classified from the offence of insulting the highest institution.
He is reportedly against the revocation of the provision but is in favour of amending the penalties for the offence as well as the scope and nature of potential defamation charges.
General Sereepisuth acknowledged that the law has been misused at times.
Pheu Thai nominee to be announced on July 26th as the Democrat Party and Chart Thai Pattana politely knock on the door with a Move Forward exit likely
When asked who the nominee for Prime Minister might be on July 27th, if the Pheu Thai Party manages to put together a coalition, he said he did not know as this will be announced on Wednesday, July 26th.
Former property tycoon Mr Srettha Thavisin appears likely to be unveiled as the prime ministerial nominee.
It emerged, on Friday, that given reports that the Move Forward Party may act to disengage itself from the coalition under Pheu Thai Party’s leadership if it opens up talks with parties linked to the outgoing government and in particular the Palang Pracharat Party, the Democrat party, which has 25 MPs in the House of Representatives, may be willing to enter into a new government as well as the Chart Thai Pattana Party which has 10 MPs.
Both parties had originally signalled that they would not participate in a government involving the Move Forward party because of its position on Article 112 of the Criminal Code.
Move Forward should report Thursday’s vote to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and file an Ombudman’s complaint under Section 234
General Sereepisuth also referred to the news that legal scholars and academics have suggested that the parliamentary vote on Wednesday the 19th of July 2023 in which the Parliament decided to block the nomination of Mr Pita Limjaroenrat as prime minister may have been illegal under the Constitution.
The basis for this claim is that the nomination of a Prime Minister is directly governed by the Constitution and not by parliamentary procedure as the appointment of a Prime Minister is not a legislative act.
General Sereepisuth appeared to endorse this view but suggested that the matter should be investigated by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) which is authorised for this purpose under Section 234 of the constitution which deals with breaches of the Charter.
Mr Pita already has a case before the Criminal Court for Corruption against the Election Commission which is due to be mentioned on August 8th next over their handling of the complaint brought against him which saw him suspended, also on Wednesday 19th July, by the Constitutional Court and other issues relating to the conduct of the 2023 General Election.
The party leader suggested that a complaint should be made to the Ombudsman on the matter, but that the person involved must have standing to do so.
This would suggest that the complaint should come from Mr Pita himself directly.