Party says it will table lese-majeste law amendments on its own as it seeks to soften resistance
The Move Forward Party (MFP) said on Friday that its coalition partners need not support its controversial stance on amending the royal defamation law, as it seeks to win backing to form a government.
“If parties agree with us on 112, then we are ready to include it in the agreement, but it is not a condition for joining the government,” deputy leader Sirikanya Tansakun said on a morning talk show, referring to Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese-majeste law.
The agreement she referred to is a memorandum of understanding that is now being drafted by the eight parties in the coalition and is scheduled to be signed on Monday.
Ms Sirikanya said that Move Forward would table a proposed amendment to Section 112 independently in parliament.
The lese-majeste law prescribes terms of three to 15 years in prison for offences against the monarchy. But opponents say it is used mainly to stifle dissent. About 240 people have been charged under the law since youth-led protests against the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha began in mid-2020.
Move Forward wants to amend the law to reduce prison terms, and to stipulate that only the Bureau of the Royal Household can lodge a complaint. Currently, anyone can file a complaint against anyone else and police are obliged to investigate it.
Move Forward’s eight-party coalition will have 313 votes in the 500-member House. But the 250-member Senate will also vote on the selection of the prime minister. The party will need a total of 376 votes to ensure the approval of its leader, Pita Limjaroenrat.
The majority of the senators, all of them appointed by Gen Prayut in 2019, do not support Mr Pita. But a few have come out publicly to say they will back him as the leader of the party with a big mandate from the public.
The Bhumjaithai Party, which holds 70 seats and is the largest opposition party, has said it would not support any premier who would amend the lese-majeste law.
Analysts say not forcing other parties to adopt its position on lese-majeste could help Move Forward draw in additional votes.
“They’ve decelerated significantly on this issue, which eases the pressure on government parties from supporting the coalition,” said political scientist Wanwichit Boonprong of Rangsit University.
Another divisive topic was the use of cannabis, which was championed by Bhumjaithai and legalised last year but without accompanying regulations in place, leading to a surge in recreational use that angered conservatives.
Move Forward said it would re-criminalise the substance before deploying a legal framework allowing for medical and regulated recreational use.
“We support medical marijuana, and recreational use must be regulated,” said Parit Wacharasindhu, an MP-elect with the party.