PM backs referendum before bill

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has expressed support for a referendum on constitutional amendments before pressing ahead with a vote on the third reading of the charter rewrite bill.

  • Published: 12/12/2012 at 12:00 AM
  • Newspaper section: topstories

Ms Yingluck admitted she had consulted deposed former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, her elder brother, about changing the charter and that he had given her advice on the matter. She did not reveal what advice he gave.

In principle, charter amendment depends on the decision of parliament, not the government, she said.

She said the cabinet Tuesday instructed the Justice and Interior Ministries to find a way to ensure that charter changes were a participatory process involving the public. The two ministries are to submit their ideas to the cabinet as soon as possible.

This process could either be through public forums or by holding a referendum, she said.

Ms Yingluck said the government is ready to support any process involving the public.

She said the government is focused on finding a solution to current political conflicts and restoring harmony, in accordance with His Majesty the King's birthday speech on Dec 5.

Commenting on the fact that conflict always occurs whenever the issue of charter amendment is raised, Ms Yingluck said the government was more concerned about public understanding.

The government wants the people to participate in the decision-making process, she added.

In a speech to the Asia Society in Hong Kong yesterday, Thaksin said he believed Ms Yingluck would hold a referendum to gauge people's opinions on constitutional amendments before going ahead with changes.

"The government is ready to accept the results of a referendum," Thaksin said.

"Before, there was no justice in the Thai political system and I personally believe that reconciliation will happen when the law is enforced in a fair and equal manner.

"Reconciliation is not about me receiving an amnesty so that I can return home. I'm already familiar with staying abroad," he said.

The former prime minister said there would be many positive developments in Thailand next year and reconciliation would be among them.

Meanwhile, the coalition government's working committee considering the charter amendment process finalised its report yesterday. The proposal will be handed to all coalition partners so they can decide how to proceed.

Committee chairman and prime minister's adviser, Pokin Polakul, said parliament has the authority to vote on the bill to amend Section 291 to allow the creation of a drafting assembly to rewrite the 2007 charter.

The committee agreed that since the country is still divided, the government and coalition parties would need to explain to the public why changes are necessary, before a third-reading vote takes place.

Mr Pokin said the bill stipulates that after the drafting assembly finishes its work, a referendum can be held to allow the public to decide.

Mr Pokin said the working committee carefully examined the July 13 Constitution Court ruling which said a complete charter rewrite without a referendum would be unconstitutional.

The court ruled the charter amendment bill be suspended and a public referendum held on rewriting Section 291. It did not specify whether the referendum should take place before the charter changes are drafted or after. However, Mr Pokin said a referendum could be held before the new constitution was drafted, to avoid conflict.

Chusak Sirinil, a Pheu Thai Party legal adviser and working committee member, said the government obviously wants to hold a referendum before going ahead with charter changes as this is the safest option.

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Writer: Patsara Jikkham, Aekarach Sattaburuth & Manop Thip-Osod

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