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A protest caravan visited the headquarters of the Army, Navy and Police on Sunday (16 July) to demand that military and police commanders appointed as senators resign from the Senate.

The protesters setting out from the Democracy Monument (Photo by ZEE FAOZEE)

The caravan started from the Democracy Monument, before visiting the Army headquarters, the Navy headquarters, and the Police headquarters, ending at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC).

The activists filed petitions that military and police commanders resign from the Senate, as they were absent from the Prime Minister vote last Thursday (13 July). They also handed out resignation letters they had written for these senators.

Before the caravan set out from the Democracy Monument, human rights lawyer and activist Anon Nampa spoke to the protesters, saying that he has received confirmation from leaders of the 8 parties in the government coalition that their MPs will still be voting for Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat during the next Prime Minister vote on 19 July.

Anon said that the military commanders were not present during the 13 July vote, claiming prior engagements. He asked what engagement can be more important than voting for a Prime Minister. Meanwhile, other senators were in the chamber during the session, but abstained from voting. He called for them to resign, saying that they disrespected the people and the results of the election, and said that people need to come out to protest to show that their vote is to be respected.

Protesters in front of the Army headquarters (Photos by Ginger Cat)

Several military commanders took leave from attending Thursday’s session, claiming they had other engagements and that they had submitted a letter requesting leave from the House Speaker. Admiral Choengchai Chomchoengpaet, the Navy Commander-in-Chief, said he had to attend a memorial event for the 130th anniversary of the 1893 Franco-Siamese War. Gen Chalermpol Srisawat, Chief of the Defence Forces, was travelling to Phitsanulok to visit an Armed Forces Development Command Unit. Gen Narongpan Jitkaewtae, Army Commander-in-Chief, was undertaking engagements in the North and Northeastern regions. Air Chief Marshal Alongkorn Vannarot, Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, was attending a meeting in the UK at the time and was not back in Thailand until 16 July. Gen Sanitchanog Sangkachantra, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Defence, was receiving overseas visitors and had to attend meetings.

Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas, Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police, was also absent during the session.

Protesters sitting on the back of a truck holding flags and a flyer calling for the abolition of the Senate. (Photo by Ginger Cat)

Korakot Saengyenpan, activist from the Democracy Restoration Group (DRG), said that senators had disrespected the result of the election and were using irrelevant issues like the campaign to amend the royal defamation law as an excuse not to vote for Pita, who was nominated by the majority in the House of Representatives.

“The only way out for the senators in the people’s opinion is to get out,” he said.

Korakot said that military and police commanders are civil servants and should not have any power over those holding political office, and so they should not be choosing prime ministers. He noted that these senators voted for Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha following the 2019 election, but now they claimed they were not free to attend the Prime Minister vote, and if they are not free, they should resign.

Korakot called on the senators to respect the result of the election, or there would be no point to voting if 250 people are deciding the outcome. He also called on the 8 government coalition parties to stay together.

After protesters arrived at the BACC, activists read out a statement condemning senators and MPs who did not vote for Pita, and calling for senators who did not respect the result of the election to resign to allow the remaining MPs and senators to cast their vote in line with the election result.

The statement also called on the 8 government coalition parties to stay together and not to give in to demands made by the Senate, who they see as undemocratic, and called on the people to join them in protest.

Passers-by on an overpass above Ratchaprasong Intersection flashing the three-finger salute in support of protesters. (Photo by Ginger Cat)

The protest is the latest in a series taking place during the past week after the Election Commission filed a petition with the Constitutional Court to rule whether to disqualify Pita for holding media shares and whether to suspend him while the case is in court, and after parliament voted not to appoint him Prime Minister. Protesters in several provinces have called for the Senate and the House of Representatives to vote for Pita, as his party won the most seats in the election.

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