The Democrat Party has come out against the government's charter rewrite process, saying it imperils the nation.
The opposition party resolved yesterday to oppose the three bills proposing amendments to Sections 68, 117, 190 and 237 of the constitution, Democrat spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut said.
While amending the charter by sections was a viable practice, the proposed changes to the content of the charter spell danger for the country, he said.
Sections 68 and 237 will be amended under one bill, and the rest in other bills.
They will be debated in the House from today until Wednesday. They will then be put up for a first reading vote. If passed, a House panel will be formed to scrutinise them.
The bill to amend Section 68 aims to weaken the people's role in defending the charter, he said.
It stipulates the public would no longer be able to directly petition the Constitution Court against moves deemed subversive to the country's rule.
The petition would have to go through the attorney-general first.
The change would defy the Constitution Court's ruling that the public has the right to file a petition directly to the court, Mr Chavanond said.
For Section 190, the relevant amendment bill limits the kinds of international agreements which parliament is required to approve before they can take effect.
It would exclude international contracts governing economic zones outside the country, but which are jointly developed with neighbouring countries, from being subject to parliamentary scrutiny.
There was danger the Thai-Cambodian and Thai-Malaysian economic areas would evade parliamentary checks. The amendment also keeps international contracts with far-reaching economic impacts out of the parliament vetting process.
If the government has its way, Section 190 virtually will be worthless, he said.
Senator Khamnoon Sitthisamarn said only two kinds of international contracts _ those affecting territorial sovereignty and those requiring a law to be passed to legally fulfil the agreements _ will be subject to parliament scrutiny.
Most crucial contracts, including free-trade agreements with other countries, will also be excluded.
"If the parliament doesn't have to consider them, people won't know about them," the senator said.
Mr Chavanond said the proposed rewrite of Section 237 was also problematic.
The Democrats agree in principle that dissolving a political party over electoral malpractice should not be made too easy. However, the party objects to the amendment which would prevent party executives from being held to account for electoral fraud committed by individual party members.
Under the current law, complicity in electoral fraud by party executives results in the dissolution of the party and a five-year political ban against the executives.
Mr Chavanond said the executive board should share the blame, or the party could get away with the fraud by shifting the wrongdoing to its members. Vote-buying would also be more rampant, he said.
Opposition chief whip Jurin Laksanavisit said the amendments in general are driven by vested interests.
The three bills are backed by more than 200 MPs and senators who were "trading off their support", Mr Jurin said.
He said changing Section 237 would make it harder for party executives who are MPs to be criminally liable for electoral fraud.
Rewriting Section 117 works for the benefit of senators as it will do away with a ban on their serving two consecutive terms and abolish appointed senators.
Mr Jurin maintained the constitution's intention is for senators to serve a single term. Having only elected senators will effectively turn senators into MPs, he said.
Meanwhile, Pheu Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit insisted that amending Section 68 will not take away the people's right to petition the Constitution Court. Petitions submitted via the attorney-general will ease the workload of the court. The attorney-general will help screen the cases to be presented.
He said about 60 Pheu Thai MPs will join the first reading debate. Mr Jurin said 30 Democrat MPs have signed up for the three-day session.
An Abac Poll yesterday said most people believe political conflicts will continue after the constitution is amended.
The poll, conducted between March 15 and Saturday, was held in 17 provinces including Bangkok. About 83% of respondents believed conflicts would continue after the constitutional amendments. Only 16.2% thought otherwise.
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Writer: Pradit Ruangdit & Aekarach Sattaburuth