Caption: Karom Polpornklang. Source: TPTV

2 MPs to defy Move Forward party over 112 amendment

Karom Polpornklang and Kwanlert Panichmat, two MPs of the Move Forward party, have said that they will not sign a proposal to amend the lèse majesté law.

“I will not sign,” said Karom on 28 January. “I say through the media here that I will not sign. I don’t know if others will sign or not. But I will not sign and no one can force me.”

According to Matichon Online, Karom said that there may be at least 3 MPs defying the Move Forward party over the lèse majesté law. He confirmed that he remains with the Move Forward party and committed to working hard.

Recently, Karom signed to accept royal decorations together with his wife, Papharat. Papharat is entitled to the decoration by custom as the wife. According to an interview with Inside Thailand, Karom said it was the second time he had received a decoration.

Born in Roi Et and graduating from Ramkhamhaeng University, Karom was a lawyer for the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) and an official in the Office of the Prime Minister under ex-prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the position which earned him the first decoration.

Having had no chance to run for MP under Pheu Thai, he joined the Future Forward party and obtained a seat in the House of Representatives after the 2019 election. After the dissolution of the Future Forward party, he joined the successor Move Forward party together with other MPs.

Meanwhile, Kwanlert Panichmat, who became an MP for Chonburi’s Constituency 5 with the Future Forward party, also posted on Facebook saying that the amendment of Section 112 would be against his “personal principles” and apologized to his constituents.

Move Forward’s prominent MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn said that within the first quarter of this year, they would propose an amendment to Section 112 to reduce the punishment so that “it cannot be disproportionately high”.

In wake of pro-democracy protests in Thailand since last year, almost 60 people have been charged under the lèse majesté law. In late January 2021, Anchan, 63, was sentenced to 43 years and 6 months in prison for sharing 29 videos with content judged by court to be lèse majesté, the longest sentence ever under Section 112.

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the former leader of the dissolved Future Forward party, whose MPs and staff later became the Move Forward party and the Progressive Movement, also faced complaints for allegedly violating Section 112.

The complaints from the Deputy Minister of Digital Economy and Society and a Deputy Minister of the Prime Minister's Office came after he spoke about the government’s anti-Covid vaccination programme. On Facebook Live, he scrutinized the government’s vaccination scheme which involved Siam Bioscience, a company which has King Vajiralongkorn as its only shareholder.

The defiance of the 2 MPs caused a stir in the Move Forward party and the Progressive Movement. On 28 February, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul posted a call on Facebook for parliamentarians to take action regarding the lèse majesté law saying that “an MP must be a representative of the people, not a government servant.”

“If MPs do not take action at all, how will you answer the youth, the people – the future of the country? How will you be their hope?” wrote Piyabutr. “When a great number of people are going out to speak up, if one day they lose hope in political parties, politicians, and MPs, then the political system will be in turmoil.”

Somyot Prueksakasensuk, a former prisoner under the lèse majesté law, also wrote an open letter revealing that Karom had volunteered for his case as a lawyer of the UDD in 2011, but his family had to change lawyers “because he did not pay enough attention preparing for the legal battle.” In his open letter, Somyot also called for the Move Forward party to take action against Karom immediately and must inform the public about the progress.

According to the Constitution, resignation of an MP from a political party will lose them their MP status. Three-fourths of the MPs and the executive board of a political party can oust an MP from the party. However, in the case of expulsion, an MP will not lose their MP status if they can find a political party to join within 30 days.

In 2020, 9 MPs of the Future Forward party defected to join the government coalition’s Bhumjaithai Party after its dissolution by the Constitutional Court.

According to Khaosod English, the Move Forward Party is the only party who will raise the issue of the lèse majesté law in the upcoming no-confidence motion in mid-February.

MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn said that they will “take the floor and speak about the intimidation of protesters by the Emergency Decree and Section 112.”

In response, Phalang Pracharat MP Sira Jenjaka said that he was preparing to file a complaint under Section 112 against opposition leader Sompong Amornvivat and other MPs who signed in support of the no-confidence motion for letting MPs defame the King on the floor of parliament.

Sira announced his move after opposition leaders announced that they will not revise the agenda which Sira and other government MPs claimed would involve the monarchy. Former House Speaker Wan Muhamad Noor Matha of the opposition Prachachart Party said that the House Speaker can ask an MP to withdraw a comment if it is found problematic.

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