After Pita Limjaroenrat failed in his first bid to become Thailand’s next prime minister with 324 votes from both houses combined, of which only 13 were from the senate, a public gathering under the slogan ‘Respect My Vote’ called for the senators to respect the people’s consensus.
On 14 July 2023, the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration led a ‘Respect My Vote’ gathering at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre to call for senators to respect the people’s vote after Pita Limjaroenrat, the only PM candidate from the first-ranked Move Forward Party (MFP), received minimal support from the senate in the first PM vote with 182 voting against him and 199 abstentions.
Champ from the Campaign Committee for a People’s Constitution delivered a speech stating that the senators must stop claiming that the 2017 constitution grants them legitimacy to vote for the PM since the constitution did not initially come from the people’s consensus. No one asked what the people wanted in the constitution. Thus, it is quite objectionable if the senators claim it for their legitimacy.
While the MFP is proposing the amendment of Section 272, which allows senators to vote for PM, Champ noted that this is a chance for the senators to show that they stand up for the people.
After single PM candidate Pita was defeated in his initial bid to become Thailand’s next PM, Seen, a 22-year-old who participated in the gathering, told Prachatai that this is unusual. The Thai people were enthusiastic to cast their votes, but a candidate from the people’s consensus failed to become PM due to a stumbling block put in his way by junta-appointed senators.
Seen, A 22-year-old university student
“I already thought that there would have to be some pitfall, but I didn't expect it to be this ugly,” said Seen.
Seen agrees with the MFP’s latest plan to amend Section 272 of the constitution, but at the same time, she could not put her mind at rest as the conservative establishment is still active everywhere. She added that to make it possible to amend Section 272, we might have to rely on individuals’ moral sense.
She further expressed her opinion that the underlying reason why senators disregard people’s voices is that they are obsessed with power, fearing that they will lose their advantages. Seen spoke out to the senators, urging them to abandon these things and respect people’s voices in the general interest.
“If they do not accept [the people’s will], they will destroy themselves because, in the end, the people will come out and abuse them to the point where they cannot live in society,” said Seen.
“I am so disappointed. I feel that this country has lacked justice for a long time,” said Aoy, a 66-year-old housewife,
Aoy, A 66-year-old housewife
Throughout her lifetime, it seems like those who run the country are capitalist groups and a group of people who resist change. There is no room for the new generation to decide the future of the country.
Aoy does not want the MFP to be an opposition party again. She noted that we should let the new generation unleash their potential. If they are unsuccessful in running the country, we can wait for the next election and vote for other parties instead. It is simple as that.
“What are you afraid of? You have the dignity of being human. You should be aware of what is good or bad. If you are just cowards, then when will the country move forward? The country is still in the same old place and cannot compete,” said Aoy.
“I felt angry and I felt hopeless at the same time. It made me feel down all day,” said a 21-year-old political student, expressing disappointment after the results of the PM bid.
A 21-year-old political science student
Previously, his analysis was that Pita would not receive enough support. From his perspective, there might be 30-40 senators to vote in favour of Pita, but the outcome was worse than he expected.
He noted that if the same thing happens in the second bid, the people’s last resort would be to protest to show their resentment.
Regarding the controversial royal defamation law, he said it is better for the MFP to maintain its stance on this issue since he supports the party because of its policy to amend the law.
When asked if the MFP were an opposition party again, he said he could wait for the next election, but he also acknowledged that not everyone in society might share his view. He pointed out that people voted for the MFP because they believe in the party’s policies. So some people want the party to lead a government.
“If the MFP cannot [be the government], I feel it can be part of a coalition,” he said.
Rat, a 48-year-old who voted for the MFP, told Prachatai that he maintains a neutral view of what happened in the first PM bid.
“Everything is possible because this is a special country where anything can happen,” said Rat.
Rat understands that there might be some beliefs and notions preventing the senators from doing what they should do, but he still hopes that they will stand up for the people.
“Everyone loves this country the same. You [senators] must also love the people. You have to understand how much the majority of the people are struggling. Giving importance to the needs of a small group of people while a large number of people are constantly suffering no longer works for this country,” he said.