The ruling Pheu Thai Party plans to kill off its own charter amendment bill to head off a new round of political conflict and avoid risking dissolution, a party source said Friday.
The party's committee overseeing political strategy had agreed that the charter rewrite bill, currently pending parliament's third reading, should be voted down, the source said.
The bill seeks to amend Section 291 of the constitution to create a drafting assembly to rewrite the 2007 charter.
The source said there has been concern that if the bill passes the third reading without a referendum being held on charter amendments first, the bill's opponents will petition the Constitution Court for an interpretation - a process which could take at least a year and involve risks that could land Pheu Thai in trouble.
The source said the committee suggested that when the bill is voted down, Pheu Thai resubmit a new charter change bill to parliament.
The reworked bill would include proposals from the opposition and the recommendations of the charter court, the source said.
The government would then hold a referendum to gauge public opinion on amendment of the constitution, and then decide whether to amend Section 291 to create the drafting assembly.
This approach would comply with the July 13 court ruling that a wholesale charter rewrite without a referendum would be unconstitutional. The court ruled the charter amendment bill should first be suspended and a public referendum should be held on the move to rewrite Section 291.
The source said if and when the assembly is created and it finishes drafting charter amendments, another referendum would be held to endorse the amendments.
The process could take at least a year, the source said.
There has been concern that if a referendum on charter amendments is held only after the new constitution has been drafted, those involved in the charter-amendment process could be found guilty of breaching the Constitution Court's ruling.
The source added that Pheu Thai will seek to amend the constitution section-by-section while working on the new amendment bill.
Meanwhile, Bangkok senator Rosana Tositrakul, a member of the Group of 40 Senators, yesterday commented on the proposal by members of the group that the government amend the constitution section-by-section instead of rewriting it in its entirety.
She said she disagreed with the proposal if it was intended as an offer to elected senators in exchange for them voting down the charter amendment bill in its third reading.
The section-by-section amendments could include Section 117, which prohibits senators who serve their full six-year term from serving back-to-back terms. If senators were promised this section would be amended, they might be more likely to vote down the Pheu Thai bill.
Direk Thungfang, elected senator for Nonthaburi, said he did not think the proposal for section-by-section amendments by the Group of 40 senators would be rejected by Parliament President Somsak Kiatsuranont as the bill to amend Section 291 is still pending in parliament.
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- Writer: Aekarach Sattaburuth