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Thai Cabinet approves parliament session to discuss protests

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A Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha agreed to support a two-day sitting of the parliament from Oct 26, Anucha Nakasai, minister for Prime Minister's Office, told reporters in Bangkok Tuesday.

[BANGKOK] Thailand's parliament will hold a special session next week to discuss demands of pro-democracy protesters after emergency rules and police crackdowns on activists failed to halt daily rallies across the nation's capital and other major cities.

A Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha agreed to support a two-day sitting of the parliament from Oct 26, Anucha Nakasai, minister for Prime Minister's Office, told reporters in Bangkok Tuesday. The proposal still needs to be endorsed by King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

The move for parliamentary debate follows six straight days of rallies attended by tens of thousands of protesters calling for Mr Prayuth's resignation, a rewriting of the constitution and reform of the monarchy. While the prime minister on Tuesday didn't say how far the government could go in meeting the demands, the parliament may move forward the process of constitutional amendment to placate the protesters.

"Given the escalating protest movement, the parliament won't be able to delay the process for charter amendment any longer," said Virot Ali, lecturer at Thammasat University's Faculty of Political Science. "The move might be a tactic to buy time without really considering what the protesters demand, which will escalate the movement even further."

The protests have weighed on the country's stocks and currency as concerns mount a prolonged standoff may erode company earnings and delay an economic recovery. The benchmark stock index, the worst performer in Asia this year, snapped a four-day losing streak on Tuesday, while the baht fell 0.3 per cent to 31.259 to a dollar, extending losses this year to 4.2 per cent.

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On Tuesday, Mr Prayuth ordered police to reconsider censorship of media outlets, a day after police said they would probe four news outlets that may have violated the emergency rules imposed in Bangkok last week.

"Our job is to protect the country and eliminate ill-intentioned actions aimed at creating chaos and conflict in the country," Mr Prayuth told reporters after the Cabinet meeting.

The protesters have vowed to carry on the demonstrations until all their demands are met. The organisers said there would be a "surprise" for the government if authorities failed to release all detained protesters and lift the emergency rules by 6 pm local time.

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