Govt steps up charter rewrite bid

Sick Yingluck to sit out Constitution Day tribute

The government will celebrate Constitution Day on Monday by stepping up its campaign to rewrite the charter.

Prime Minister's Office Minister Varathep Rattanakorn said leaders of the government coalition parties will meet to discuss their strategy to amend the constitution.

The party leaders will place floral garlands at parliament to mark the national holiday, which celebrates the 80th anniversary since the signing of Thailand's first permanent constitution.

The coalition government's working committee considering the charter amendment process will hand over its final report tomorrow, Mr Varathep said.

The report was originally set to be submitted on Dec 17.

Mr Varathep said the report is expected to help the coalition partners decide how to proceed with their plans.

Pheu Thai MP for Chiang Rai Samart Kaewmeechai said the Interior Ministry will soon launch a nationwide campaign to involve the public in the amendment process and to have the 2007 charter abolished.

He said Pheu Thai and coalition party MPs will go to their respective provinces to explain why the changes are necessary.

"There will be a slogan exclusive for this campaign. The MPs will organise forums separate from those arranged by the ministry," the MP, who is also a member of the charter rewrite working committee, said.

The ministry will hold public forums on the charter amendment process.

The government's move coincides with United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) rally today which will call on the government to proceed with the third and final reading of the constitution amendment bill, tentatively scheduled for February next year.

The bill would pave the way for the creation of a drafting assembly to write a new constitution.

Government sources are concerned that pushing ahead with the bill without first holding a referendum could create legal difficulties if a Constitutional Court challenge is launched.

A source said MPs are divided over whether to pass the bill or shoot it down.

"Those who want to pass it believe the mandate to amend the constitution belongs to parliament," the source said.

"Even so, section-by-section amendments may also be proposed as the rewrite process is under way."

Government chief whip Udomdej Rattanasathien admitted Sunday a proposal to kill off the charter amendment bill had been raised.

He said the proposal was raised amid concerns that a court challenge could be launched to the amendment process.

Chart Pattana Party core member Suwat Liptapanlop said yesterday the charter amendment process was a delicate issue and should proceed in line with the Constitutional Court's ruling on July 13.

The court ruled that a wholesale charter rewrite without a referendum would be unconstitutional.

It also ruled the charter amendment bill should first be suspended and a public referendum be held.

However, Mr Suwat insisted there was a need to amend the 2007 constitution to make it more responsive to social and economic demands.

"Most people agreed [after the 2006 coup] that the charter could be amended later. The situation has changed so it deserves a review," he said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has cancelled her plans to place a floral tribute to mark Constitution Day.

Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said Ms Yingluck has fallen ill and needs to rest. He also asked her critics not to politicise the matter.

The UDD supporters will rally at the Royal Plaza this morning before marching past parliament, Government House, the Democracy Monument, the Supreme Court near Sanam Luang and King Rama VI monument by Lumpini Park.

They will use the Charoen Krung-Rama IV Road-Hua Lamphong-Lumpini Park route.

Police expected the rally to draw only a small crowd.

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About the author

Writer: Aekarach Sattaburuth
Position: Reporter