BANGKOK (AFP) — Hundreds of protesters forced Thailand's army-installed parliament to suspend its meetings Wednesday after the activists stormed into the chamber's halls.
About 1,500 union advocates, students and political activists surrounded the parliament building, claiming the military-appointed lawmakers had no mandate to pass legislation, an AFP reporter witnessed.
About 100 of them slipped past security and stormed into the parliament's meeting rooms, prompting lawmakers to suspend deliberations.
They left after about one hour, after the parliament agreed not to work for the rest of the day.
"We want the National Legislative Assembly to close this session and stop violating the people's rights. Most of the laws adopted by this assembly violate the people's rights and give more power to government officials," said former senator Jon Ungphakorn, who led the protest.
"The laws adopted have also favoured capitalists," he said.
The protesters in particular cited a new internal security bill, which has already passed through a first reading and could be approved before parliament dissolves ahead of the December 23 general elections.
If enacted, the security law would give a military body, under the prime minister's control, sweeping powers to suspend basic rights and override normal government procedures anywhere in the country at any time.
Critics say the law would enable the military to dictate government policy from behind the scenes while shielding officials from prosecution for any abuses.
The protesters also slammed proposed laws that would allow privatisation of state utilities and give more autonomy public universities.
"Adoption and deliberation on these important bills should be done by elected members of parliament, because then the people are able to participate," Jon said.
After the September 2006 coup that overthrew the elected government of prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the junta handpicked the 250 members of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to function as a parliament.
Activists say that with general elections less than two weeks away, the body no longer has any mandate and should stop passing laws.
But the parliament's president, Meechai Ruchupan, vowed to pass a raft of new laws before the elections.
"I am sorry for what happened today and I have not yet scheduled our next meeting. But I want to reaffirm that the NLA must continue to work and deliberate on at least 45 bills," he told reporters.
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