UDD consults court on referendum

The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship leader Tida Tawornseth will ask the Constitution Court this week to clarify its suggestion about holding a referendum prior to any charter change.

UDD core leader Jatuporn Prompan revealed the move Sunday at a seminar held by the Pheu Thai Party at a hotel in Khao Yai, Nakhon Ratchasima.

During the evening session when the 2007 constitution amendment bill was being discussed, red-shirt Pheu Thai MPs reportedly raised the contentious issue that has divided the party members on whether the third and final reading vote on the bill should go ahead.

Mr Jatuporn said he agreed with Pheu Thai secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai’s suggestion that the party should seek the help of leading academics and give them 45-60 days to study the charter bill and advise the party on how to proceed with it. 

“But at the same time, we [the UDD] will also submit a letter to the Constitution Court seeking clarity over its referendum recommendation. Because the referendum will cost more than two billion baht, we should ask [the judges],” Mr Jatuporn said.

He said Mrs Tida would ask the court two questions: whether it wanted the parliament to conduct a referendum before the final reading of the bill; and whether it was prohibiting the parliament from voting on the bill in the final reading. 

He called on the party to wait for the court’s response before deciding to hold the referendum. 

“The two answers from the court are worth one billion baht each,” he said. 

The Constitution Court ruled on July 13 last year that the bill should be suspended and suggested the government put it to a public vote, noting that the 2007 constitution was approved by popular referendum.

Pheu Thai members are still divided on how to proceed with the charter amendment. Some support a plan to hold a referendum, some want to go ahead with the third reading vote on the amendment bill, now stalled in the House, and others want the charter to be amended section by section.

Some party members were concerned that if the bill was passed without a referendum first being held, the government could face legal difficulties if a Constitution Court challenge was launched.

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