Holiday plans delay charter change
The government has postponed the second reading of its controversial charter amendment bills after MPs complained that they wanted to celebrate Songkran instead.
- Published: 8/04/2013 at 01:09 AM
- Newspaper section: topstories
The people's Lower House of parliament is going to look like this for the next 10 days, after MPs voted themselves the longest Songkran holiday in the country. (Bangkok Post file photo)
House speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont has called off parliamentary sessions on Wednesday, Thursday and April 17 due to requests from several MPs who wish to return to their home provinces for the festival holiday, government whip Udomdet Rattanasathien said.
The cancellations leave just two sitting days remaining in the current parliamentary session.
Legislators will still meet on April 18 and 19, but charter amendments will not be on the agenda, Mr Udomdet said.
The House earlier ordered scrutiny committees to vet the amendment bills within 15 days to rush through the second reading before the end of the current session.
However, Mr Udomdet confirmed that plans to debate the bills further in this session have now been abandoned.
The first reading of the bills passed a joint sitting of MPs and senators on Thursday after a two-day debate.
The bills would amend Section 68 of the 2007 military-sponsored constitution to prohibit the public from directly lodging complaints over threats to the monarchy with the Constitutional Court.
They would also rewrite Section 190 so parliamentary approval would no longer be required for the signing of international contracts.
Section 237, which outlines penalties for political parties when their members commit election fraud, would also be revised. Supporters of the bills say party dissolution and five-year political bans for party executives is too harsh.
Under the changes, all senators would be elected and would no longer be authorised to impeach elected politicians. At present, half of the senators are appointed.
The Democrat Party has opposed all proposed amendments and has lambasted the government for trying to rush through the changes. They say the 15 days given to the vetting committees is not enough time to consider the bills.
The timeframe was adopted without a vote due to a lack of quorum in the House, Democrat list-MP Ong-art Klampaiboon said. This was an "incorrect process" and the party is considering lobbying the Constitution Court to look into it, he said.
If the government continues to rush the bills through, "Don't blame us for causing trouble", he said.
According to the latest Abac poll conducted by Assumption College, 67.3% of people are worried the charter amendment process will lead to new conflicts if the changes are carried out to benefit certain people rather than for the public benefit.
The Democrats have criticised the government for hastily pushing the 2-trillion-baht borrowing bill for the infrastructure overhaul without first evaluating the projects.
Mr Ong-art said Sunday the borrowing bill, which is being scrutinised by a parliamentary committee, failed to address the practicality of the projects.
The government has only now asked the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) to evaluate the worthiness of four high-speed railways after the bill passed its first parliamentary reading, he said. This shows the government did not carefully draft the investment plan before it was sent to parliament last week, he added.
The high-speed railways, which could cost up to 783 billion baht, cover Bangkok-Chiang Mai, Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima, Bangkok-Hua Hin and Bangkok-Rayong routes.
The first bids are likely to be taken in the third quarter of this year with an investment cost of 156 billion baht.
Mr Ong-art said the government should have picked particular high-speed railways for the investment, not all the routes, some of which have yet to prove their worth economically. A more selective approach would reduce the debt and interest burden, he said.
The Democrat Party will continue to scrutinise projects under the bill, Mr Ong-art said.
The party is not attempting to stand in the way of infrastructure development but wants to ensure the government carries out the projects transparently, he said.
Meanwhile, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra Sunday defended the investment plan.
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- Writer: Post Reporters
- Position: Reporters