Government coalition partners have backed the prime minister's stance in insisting a referendum be held before a charter amendment bill now before the House goes any further.
PM's Office Minister Varathep Rattanakorn said yesterday the coalition partners have initially agreed that a referendum is needed before the bill, now awaiting its third reading stage, should be passed into law.
He said the decision _ to be made official today _ will be forwarded to the cabinet for consideration in the next one or two weeks.
"It won't delay the final reading of the charter amendment bill which should be put to a vote during the final weeks of the next parliament session," he said.
Chief government whip Udomdej Rattanapien said the referendum is expected to take 90 days to organise so the final reading is likely to proceed some time after the middle of next year.
Parliament is scheduled to reconvene next Friday.
Prasert Boonchaisuk, secretary-general designate of the Chartpattana Party, said the party has agreed with a proposal that a referendum should precede the final reading of the charter amendment bill.
"It is in line with the charter court's ruling on July 13 and it will avert any criticism," said Mr Prasert, who is also the industry minister. The ruling said a charter rewrite without a referendum would be unconstitutional.
The court ruled the charter amendment bill be suspended and a public referendum held on rewriting Section 291, which would set in place the process of writing a new charter.
It did not specify whether the referendum should take place before the charter changes are drafted or after.
Meanwhile, ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra said he agrees a referendum is needed before the third and final reading of the bill can proceed, according to Samut Prakan MP Worachai Hema.
Speaking after a meeting with Thaksin in Hong Kong, Mr Worachai said the ex-premier said a referendum on the bill to amend Section 291 is a necessity.
"The charter amendment is a must otherwise conflicts will remain," Mr Worachai quoted Thaksin as saying. "Peace will be restored with a democratic constitution," he said.
"But since the third reading seems to pose a problem, a referendum is needed first," Thaksin told Mr Worachai.
The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship is adamant the third reading of the bill should go ahead.
Pheu Thai MP for Yasothon Pirapan Palusuk said there are two options being considered for the referendum.
One is to seek an amendment to Section 165 of the charter to change the number of votes required to pass a referendum. Currently it demands half of the eligible voters to support a referendum. The other is to propose a new bill calling for a referendum on the amendment. It would require a simple majority of people who cast votes to pass the referendum. "The coalition parties will have to figure out which should be adopted," he said.
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- Writer: Aekarach Sattaburuth