Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat waves next to key members from other parties during a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand, 18 May 2023. EFE-EPA/NARONG SANGNAK

Thailand’s Move Forward, other pro-democracy parties sign MOU

Bangkok, May 22 (EFE).- Reformist party Move Forward and seven other formations with a majority in the Lower House signed an agreement Monday to form a pro-democratic government coalition in Thailand, although their coming to power is conditioned by the unelected senate.

The parties agreed on a government program that includes the development of a new Constitution, LGBT+ marriage and the elimination of compulsory military service, but not the controversial reform of the royal defamation law promised by Move Forward, which won the elections on May 14 with 152 seats.

In addition to the party led by Pita Limjaroenrat, the pact was signed by Pheu Thai, the second party in the elections with 146 seats, and other smaller formations: Prachachart, Thai Sang Thai, Seri Ruam Thai, Fair, Palang Sangkhom Mai and Pheu Thai Ruam Phalang.

Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat waves as he arrives at a press conference on the formation of a coalition government in Bangkok, Thailand, 18 May 2023. EFE-EPA/NARONG SANGNAK

In a press conference after the signing of the agreement, Pita said the document calls for the democratization of the country, but added that it would preserve the institution of the monarchy.

However, the candidate said his party would take the reform of the royal defamation law to parliament at a later date.

“The Move Forward party firmly maintains its commitment to move forward on this issue,” said Pita, whose party already presented a proposal to reform the law in 2021, although it was never debated.

Today’s signing coincides with the date of the coup led by outgoing Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha in 2014.

Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat (C) poses for photos next to Thai Srang Thai Party leader Sudarat Keyuraphan (L), Pheu Thai Party leader Cholnan Srikaew (R), along with key members from other parties during a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand, 18 May 2023. EFE-EPA/NARONG SANGNAK

Other proposals in the agreement are the reform of the police and the army, the decentralization of the administration, ending the monopoly of alcoholic beverages, land reform and increasing controls on the use of marijuana.

The coalition parties account for 313 of the 500 seats in the Lower House, which falls short of the absolute majority to elect the prime minister, since the senate – handpicked by the former military junta – and its 250 members are also allowed to vote for the head of government.

The democratic bloc, which could put an end to almost a decade of rule by the military, is doing the math and has drawn up a roadmap to win the support of parties and senators that could guarantee it the 63 additional votes it needs to ensure it can form the government.

The main obstacle is the promised reform of the draconian royal defamation law, a possibility that has already been rejected by pro-military and pro-monarchy parties, as well as some senators.

Considered one of the strictest in the world, the law, also known as Article 112 of the penal code, punishes anyone judged to have insulted members of the royal family with up to 15 years in prison.

The reform of Article 112 was one of the main demands of the protesters, mostly students, who took to the streets in 2020 and broke a taboo by publicly debating the role of the monarchy.

Dozens of protesters and activists have since been charged with breaking the law and many young supporters of the reform voted for Move Forward, which unexpectedly won the election against the established Pheu Thai, led by the influential Shinawatra family.

In the last 20 years, the pro-military and pro-monarchy elite has deposed four prime ministers in Thailand, two through military coups in 2006 and 2014 and another two in two controversial judicial decisions in 2009. EFE