Democrats oust charter chair
The opposition Democrats Monday forced Senate Speaker Nikhom Wairatpanich to vacate his chair temporarily during the joint parliamentary meeting on the charter amendment bills.
- Published: 1/04/2013 at 11:26 PM
- Newspaper section: topstories
Democrat MPs protest against Senate Speaker Nikhom Wairatpanich for chairing debate on the charter change bills. They accused Mr Nikhom of a conflict of interest since he earlier indicated his backing for constitutional amendment. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
The ousting came as senators and MPs Monday began a stormy three-day joint debate on the three charter change bills.
The meeting was marred by several hours of protests over the neutrality of Mr Nikhom as chairman of the meeting.
The Democrats said Mr Nikhom was one of those who proposed the bills.
His chairing the meeting would raise questions about his impartiality, as he had declared his stance in favour of change, they said.
Before the meeting began Monday, the Democrats said Mr Nikhom, who is also deputy parliament president, had signed to support the bills changing sections 68, 190 and 237.
Democrat MP for Bangkok Thana Cheeravinit asked Parliament President and House Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont to bar Mr Nikhom from chairing the meeting.
Democrats began by criticising Senate Speaker Nikhom Wairatpanich, but when he tried to defend his position, the opposition protest grew stronger and then, finally, turned into a walkout. (Photos by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill, Apichart Jinakul)
The parliament president and his deputies must perform their duties impartially and independently without conflicts of interest, Mr Thana said.
He said Mr Nikhom also criticised MPs and senators who had differing views on charter amendments.
He said the Democrat Party could use the issue as a basis to petition the Constitution Court to derail the government's charter change process.
The Democrats have declared they oppose the changes, though about 30 MPs have signed up to take part in the debate.
Mr Somsak said Mr Nikhom was eligible as a senator to sign in support of the charter change bills.
He saw no problem with allowing him to direct the meeting.
Mr Nikhom went on to chair the meeting, prompting protests from the Democrats.
The protests continued for four hours until Mr Nikhom finally relented and let Mr Somsak take over his duties.
However, the meeting erupted in turmoil again in the evening when Mr Nikhom returned as chairman.
Opposition chief whip Jurin Laksanavisit criticised Mr Nikhom for failing to maintain order during the meeting and again asked him to step down.
But Mr Nikhom refused, prompting the Democrat MPs to walk out of the chamber.
Mr Jurin said the opposition will stay away from the House again on Tuesday if Mr Nikhom refuses to withdraw his support for the bills, or insists on taking the chair.
The bills, backed by more than 200 MPs and senators, seek to change sections 68, 190, 237 and several sections relating to the selection and election of senators.
Critics of the bills, including the opposition MPs and many appointed senators, said the bills put political interest ahead of the public benefit.
Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said Mr Somsak, as parliament president, should ask Mr Nikhom to withdraw as chairman.
The meeting could not go smoothly if Mr Nikhom's neutrality was called into question, he said.
Democrat MP for Bangkok Wirat Kalayasiri said Mr Nikhom's chairing of the meeting could violate Section 122 of the constitution which stipulates that MPs and senators must perform their duties honestly without any conflict of interest.
Despite the continuing protests, Mr Nikhom insisted earlier Monday he had the right to chair the meeting and would comply strictly with the meeting's regulations regardless of what the critics said.
He said he had supported changes to charter sections which are not democratic and he challenged those who disagreed with him to petition the Constitution Court.
Backers of the bills want Section 68 changed to prevent the public from directly asking the Constitution Court to examine moves deemed detrimental to the constitutional monarchy.
All petitions would be first vetted by the Attorney-General's Department.
Amendments to sections 111-114 aim to do away with appointed senators and call for all 200 senators to be elected.
Amending Section 190 would change the current requirement for some international contracts go through parliament.
It would exempt most agreements, including foreign trade deals.
Amending Section 237 would prevent a party from being dissolved when an executive commits electoral fraud.
About the author
- Writer: Mongkol Bangprapa, Manop Thip-osod and Aekarach Sattaburuth