Youth-led protests have been going on since mid-July in an increasing challenge to the government, powerful monarchy.
Hundreds of Thai royalists have marched to the country’s parliament to oppose calls from anti-government protesters for changes to the constitution as the assembly met to consider amending it.
The special session of parliament on Wednesday was convened after nearly two months of protests – the biggest of which drew tens of thousands of people on Saturday and Sunday in the Southeast Asian country.
Protesters seek to change a constitution they say was engineered to ensure former military leader Prayuth Chan-ocha stayed on as prime minister after last year’s election.
They want his departure, and some protesters also say the constitution gives too much power to King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
Prayuth said the 2019 election was fair.
The 2017 constitution was written by a military-appointed committee following a nationwide referendum a year earlier.
Warong Dechgitvigrom, who led the march to the parliament by the royalist Thai Pakdee group, said he had submitted a petition with 130,000 signatures opposing any constitutional change.
“To amend the 2017 constitution, another nationwide referendum must be done,” Warong told Reuters news agency. “Nothing good would come out of this amendment. It will only benefit politicians.”
The group’s move came after Thai legal watchdog group iLaw submitted a draft charter to parliament on Tuesday ahead of its special session.
But the parliamentary secretary said the draft, backed by more than 100,000 signatures, would not be considered this week because the signatures must be verified will decide on Thursday how and what part of the constitution will be amended. Protesters plan to rally outside the parliament to apply pressure.
Thailand’s parliament is made up of an elected lower House of Representatives, in which Prayuth’s backers increased their majority after a ban on a major opposition party early this year, and the upper-house Senate, whose members were all selected by Prayuth’s former military officers.