FILE PHOTO: Military cadets hold up Thai national flags as they gather outside the Grand Palace to celebrate the 67th birthday of Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn in Bangkok, Thailand, July 28, 2019. REUTERS

BANGKOK: A government emergency decree that granted the Thai king personal control over two army units was passed today by all parties in Parliament except the Future Forward party.

The party was the lone faction to vote against the decree, which party co-leader Piyabutr Saengkanokkul said was issued in an unnecessary haste and bypassed the usual scrutiny in Parliament.

The bill was passed by 376 to 70 with two MPs abstaining.

The rest of the opposition bench voted in favour of the decree, which was enacted unilaterally by the government on Sept 30 without approval from the lawmakers.

The government insisted there was an unspecified “emergency” that required the bill to be passed immediately.

Explaining his party’s opposition to the decree in the parliament earlier, Piyabutr said the government’s actions amounted to disrespecting democratic channels and compared it to the use of absolute power under the previous junta.

“Gen Prayuth exercises his power without a care for the constitution,” the former law scholar said.

The Sept 30 decree cut off the 1st and 11th Infantry Divisions from the army’s structure and put them under King Vajiralongkorn’s control.

The government said the urgency of the move was necessary to provide better security to the royal family, royal residences, and VIP guests visiting on the monarch’s invitation.

Since coming to the throne in 2016 after the death of his father King Bhumibol, the king has been taking steps to ensure closer ties between the monarchy and the armed forces.

Changes he introduced to the armed forces include new haircut, new salutes, and transfers of some bureaucratic departments to the palace’s direct command.

In August, the king also dispatched a group of “model soldiers,” who were trained under army courses devised by him, to pass on the new training methods to other military units across the country.