MPs petition against domestic abuse law

MPs petition against domestic abuse law

Challenge status of executive decree

The government is facing its next time bomb after the opposition petitioned the Constitutional Court, challenging the status of the executive decree the cabinet has passed in connection with criminal investigations into domestic violence cases.

The opposition announced on Tuesday that it has mustered the support of more than one-fifth of the 500 MPs to file the constitutional petition against the decree.

The petition was lodged on Tuesday, along with a list of supporting MPs. Parliament president Chuan Leekpai will pass it on to the Constitutional Court within three days.

The cabinet on Aug 26 approved the decree which effectively puts on hold the draft bill to amend the 2007 law promoting the development and protection of families. The bill was passed by the National Legislative Assembly under the previous government and is waiting to go into effect.

The decree, meanwhile, dictates that the 2007 law on family protection must continue to be enforced until the amendment bill is enacted.

The decree was due to be tabled for parliament endorsement on Tuesday. However, the opposition's petition to the Constitutional Court resulted in the decree's suspension.

The 2007 law stipulates that criminal investigations into acts of domestic violence follow the normal legal procedures in which the probe is handled by the police and the assault charges stemming from domestic violence are compoundable offences. However, the amendment bill seeks to hand the powers to investigate domestic violence over to officials attached to the Social Development and Human Security Ministry.

The assault charges from domestic violence also constitute non-compoundable offences under the bill.

The cabinet approved the decree because it recognised that the amendment bill would be impractical if it went into effect. It reasoned that that social development officials were not skilled enough in legal matters to conduct the criminal investigation.

According to the cabinet, the bill could also throw families into disarray. If, for example, the father assaults the mother who must be hospitalised as a result of his assault, he could be remanded in custody and denied bail, which would mean that their children have no one to take care of them.

However, the opposition insisted that family protection is not an issue that qualifies the cabinet to invoke the decree in the first place. Although the decree now faces suspension, the fact remains that the cabinet has already approved it, which provides grounds to justify the opposition's move to seek the court's ruling.

According to Chusak Sirinil, the Pheu Thai Party legal affairs chief, a royal decree may be invoked in the interests of national security, public safety, economic security and disaster prevention.

Government deputy spokeswoman Ratchada Thanadirek said the law authorised the cabinet to delay enactment of a draft bill as it deemed necessary. However, it does not mean the cabinet has problems running the country.

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