Charter change bills just a prelude
On orders from the man in Dubai, the Pheu Thai Party, its coalition partners and pro-government senators are gearing up at full throttle to push for amending the constitution section by section.
- Published: 22/03/2013 at 09:53 AM
- Newspaper section: topstories
Three amendment bills are to be tabled in the parliament seeking to change the charter on four main issues:
1. The origin of senators. Currently, the Senate has 150 members with an elected senator from each province and the rest all appointed. Under the proposed amendment, there will be 200 senators, all elected.
2. A party will not be dissolved and the executive committee not be disbanded if an executive member is found guilty of electoral fraud, as currently stipulated in Section 237 of the charter.
3. All petitions to the Constitution Court about alleged acts contravening the democratic system filed members of the public will be vetted first by the Office of the Attorney-General.
4. The signing of a treaty with foreign governments will not need to be first endorsed by the parliament.
The Pheu Thai Party plans a meeting on Monday to bring its MPs up to date and explain the four issues to be amended.
The Democrat Party is up in ams against the amendments. The Democrats contend that if all the senators are elected and their number increased to 200, the Senate will be compromised and unable to perform its check-and-balance duty because it will be dominated by the ruling party. They also say that amending Section 237 will give the banned party executives a free ride back to politics.
The only issue the Democrats agree with is ending the party dissolution penalty and the wholesale banishment from politics of the party’s entire executive board.
Senate Speaker Nikhom Wairatchapanich is confident this latest push for charter change will be successful. He also said that the amendment process could not be completed before December, by which time the restrictions on all the "House No 109" party executives banished from politics for five years by the Constitution Court would have already expired.
Nikhom Wairatchapanich (Bangkok Post file photo)
On the surface, at least, all four proposed amendments appear to be harmless and quite fair. For instance, the election of senators is in line with democratic rule, and a party and its executive committee should not be held accountable for an offence committed by an individual executive member without its consent.
Also, the vetting of petitions sent to the Constitution Court by the Office of the Attorney-General will cut down the workload on the court, giving it more time to deliberate important cases. And requiring advance approval by the parliament of any and all treaties may cause unnecessary delays, which may not benefit the country.
But on a deeper thought, the move to restrict the public’s access to the Constitution Court by having the OAG vet all petitions is a tricky way of clipping the wings of the court, which is viewed with disdain by the Pheu Thai Party and its coalition allies – all of whom have suffered from party dissolution and the banishment from politics for their executive committees at the hands of the Constitution Court.
Senate Speaker Nikhom said he does not believe the OAG would bend to the demands of politicians and would continue to function freely and without political interference. I very much doubt that.
With fewer cases going to the Constitution Court for consideration, the court would become largely redundant.
The charter amendment push at this time is just a prelude to the next step – which is to amend Section 291 to pave the way for the dumping of the current constitution, viewed by Pheu Thai as the legacy of the military junta which overthrew the Thaksin Shinawatra government in 2006.
About the author
- Writer: Veera Prateepchaikul
- Position: Former Editor