Attempts to disqualify Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat and block his bid to become the next Prime Minister have sparked a wave of protests during the past week in several provinces calling for the Senate and the House of Representative to approve his nomination as Prime Minister, as his party won the most seats in the last general election.
The crowd on the Pathumwan skywalk during Wednesday's protest
After the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) decided last Wednesday (12 July) to submit a petition with the Constitutional Court to rule whether Pita should be disqualified over his alleged ownership of iTV shares and whether to suspend him while the Court deliberates the case against him, activists in at least 11 provinces held a protest that evening against the ECT’s decision and demanded that parliament vote to appoint Pita as Prime Minister despite the iTV share case.
In Bangkok, a crowd formed on the skywalk above Pathumwan Intersection at 18.00 on Wednesday with signs condemning the ECT’s decision and demanding that parliament respect the result of the election and vote for the candidate of the winning party. Activists took turns speaking during the event and asked people to join them at parliament the next day to wait for the result of the Prime Minister vote.
Protesters in front of Chiang Mai University on Wednesday evening
Meanwhile, in Chiang Mai, students and members of the public met in front of Chiang Mai University. Protesters were invited to come up to speak on how they feel about the ECT decision, with several questioning why the ECT decided to submit its petition only a day before the Prime Minister vote and whether anyone is benefiting from this decision. They also said that since the ECT is paid by taxpayers’ money, they should respect voters.
Protests took place in Surin, Nakhon Ratchasima, Lampang, Ubon Ratchathani, Mukdahan, Sakon Nakhon, Ayutthaya, Maha Sarakham, and Kanchanaburi.
A group of participants in Thursday's gathering flashed their middle finger when a senator or MP vote not to approve Pita's nomination or abstain from voting.
On Thursday (13 July), a crowd gathered at the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration Government Complex, next to parliament, to watch Senators and MPs debate Pita’s nomination and the vote. The session was shown on a large screen, with speakers placed in the Complex’s park and along Thahan Road.
Meanwhile, the police declared a no-protest zone within a 50-metre radius of the parliament complex and blocked Samsen Road with a row of shipping containers. The overpass above Kiakkai intersection was also blocked with metal sheets and razor wire, while shipping containers were placed along Thahan Road, blocking off the parliament building.
At Tha Pae gate in Chiang Mai, people also turned up to watch parliament cast its vote. At Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Law, the debate was also shown on TV and projector screens in the faculty building for students and members of the public.
Protesters in Chiang Mai burned a list of senators and MPs who did not approve Pita's nomination during Thursday night's gathering.
After Pita lost the first round of voting, protesters in Chiang Mai burned chilli and salt – a traditional cursing ritual – along with a list of senators and MPs who did not approve Pita’s nomination.
Activists in Bangkok called a protest on Friday (14 July) at the courtyard in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC). During the protest, flyers calling for the abolition of the Senate were handed out, while a large piece of cloth was laid out for people to write messages, many of which condemned the Senate’s actions for disrespecting the people and disregarding election results by not approving a Prime Minister candidate nominated by the winning party.
Protesters holding flyers calling for the abolition of the Senate during Friday's protest in Bangkok
Online, several businesses, from restaurants to a badminton court and a tire repair shop, announced that senators, election commissioners, and their family members are no longer welcome if they did not vote for Pita. Meanwhile, a list of businesses run by senators or their family members is being circulated by netizens along with a call for the public to sanction these businesses.
Hawon Thailand, a Korean barbeque restaurant included on the list, issued a statement on Friday night saying that one of its minor shareholders is related to a person holding a political office. The shareholder has no executive power over the business, the statement said, and they have already withdrawn their shares. The statement also said that the business supports democracy.
The crowd flashed the three-finger salute during Friday's protest
Activists in Bangkok have already called for a protest on 19 July, when another Prime Minister vote is to take place. Meanwhile, human rights lawyer and activist Anon Nampa is to lead a protest caravan across Bangkok on Sunday afternoon (16 July), which will start at the Democracy Monument and visit the Army headquarters, the Navy headquarters, the Police headquarters, and end at the BACC to demand that military and police commanders appointed as senators resign.