The four coalition parties affirmed yesterday they would proceed with organising a referendum on charter change.
The Pheu Thai, Chartthaipattana, Chart Pattana, and Phalang Chon parties issued a joint statement to hold the referendum before moving on to the third and final reading of the constitutional amendment bill, Pheu Thai Party leader Charupong Ruangsuwan said yesterday.
The cabinet has the right to conduct the referendum under Section 165 of the constitution and the Referendum Act 2009 which is now seen as an ideal way out of conflicts over the government's charter amendment bid, he said.
"No matter how the results of the referendum turn out, all sides must accept them as the final say," Mr Charupong said.
But the joint statement still kept the door open to make changes regardless of the vote results. "No matter what the results are, parliament reserves the right to consider amending certain parts of the constitution considered to be undemocratic and against the rule of law," it said.Prime Minister's Office Minister Varathep Rattanakorn, in his capacity as secretary-general of the coalition government's panel that has studied the possibility of amending the charter, said he agreed completely with the decision to hold a referendum in order to move forward with rewriting the entire constitution.
The results of the referendum would not be only a recommendation but the final decision on the matter, he said.
Section 9 of the Referendum Act requires more than half of the eligible voters to take part in a referendum, he said, adding if the referendum turnout is lower than this, it would have to be cancelled.
Thailand has about 46 million eligible voters, so more than 23 million must participate in the referendum and more than half of these 23 million votes are required to support the charter rewrite, or else the rewrite plan would have to be shelved, he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, meanwhile, declined to comment on the issue, saying he did not want to cause a rift in the Pheu Thai Party with his comments.
"I repeat, whoever has a dispute with former prime minister Thaksin [Shinawatra], will have nothing left and will be alone. Suppose I am the one who has a fight with Thaksin, I will have to be all by myself," he said.
Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the government had made it clear now that it was aiming to amend Section 309 of the 2007 charter, which legalises the actions and orders of the military coup-makers in 2006, in order to clear Thaksin of all the charges brought against him after the coup that toppled his government.
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Writer: Aekarach Sattaburuth and Patsara Jikkham