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Thousands Protest in Thailand Over Delay of Constitutional Amendment

Pro-democracy demonstrators raise a three-finger salute, a symbol of resistance, outside Parliament in Bangkok, Thailand, Sept. 24, 2020. Lawmakers were expected to vote Thursday on six proposed constitutional amendments.

Thailand’s parliament voted Thursday to delay deciding on whether it will amend the country’s constitution, and anti-government protesters continued the daily demonstrations they have been staging for more than two months, calling for more democracy and reform of the monarchy.

Rather than vote on the amendment, lawmakers dominated by government supporters opted to set up a committee that will study various plans to amend the charter written by a military-appointed panel after a 2014 coup. Critics of the current government say the constitution was drafted to ensure the country’s current prime minister remained in power after the election last year.

The decision is expected to delay the process by another month, agitating the thousands of protesters who gathered outside the parliament to put pressure on lawmakers to implement constitutional change and remove Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha, a former junta leader, from office.

Parliament member Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn from the opposition party said in a tweet that as a result of the delay to form a committee, if the motion to amend the constitution is rejected in a month's time, then members of parliament will not be able to propose another motion until next year.

“It’s part of their tactics to delay the process because they want to hold on to their power,” said Punchada Sirivunnabood, an associate professor of politics at Mahidol University near Bangkok. “The protest movement will likely escalate from this point, with more people, including the opposition parties, joining the movement.”

Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn has not publicly commented on the protests that have demanded the monarchy’s power be reduced — a movement that challenges a decadeslong taboo of not criticizing the monarchy.

Prayuth has called for patience on the amendment, saying the country must be peaceful in order for the government to be able to “continue our work, especially on the economy.”