Constitutional Court to rule on changes
Parliament agreed yesterday that the Constitutional Court should rule on the legality of proposed constitutional amendments aimed at setting up a charter drafting body.
A joint session of MPs and Senators approved the motion by 366 votes to 316 with 15 abstentions.
The motion was proposed by Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) list-MP Paiboon Nititawan and Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn.
They said they were concerned that proposed amendments to Section 256 of the constitution, which will pave the way for the creation of a charter drafting assembly (CDA), may be unconstitutional.
The motion was signed by 48 senators and 25 MPs, all from the ruling party, the PPRP, who claim parliament is only authorised to make changes to the charter, not create a new one.
Any action to allow the writing of a new charter would be unconstitutional, according to the motion. It will now be submitted to the court for a ruling.
Sen Somchai explained that he wants parliament to proceed with the charter amendment process with caution and when the legality of the process is questioned, the issue should be decided by the court.
He insisted that senators had no intention of delaying the process, but wanted to seek clarification on whether parliament had such authority.
Mr Paiboon said parliament should submit the motion to the court for an immediate ruling.
"It would be a waste of time and money if the proposed amendments that are passed by parliament in the third reading and endorsed at a referendum were later ruled to be unconstitutional by the court," he said.
"But if the court rules in favour of the process, a third reading vote should proceed smoothly."
Before the vote yesterday MPs, mostly from the opposition parties, voiced opposition to the motion and called for it to be withdrawn.
Chavalit Wichayasut, a Pheu Thai Party MP for Nakhon Phanom, said the motion contradicted Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's pledge to oversee charter amendments.
Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the Move Forward Party, said the motion's intention was to curtail the power of parliament and keep the constitution, which was sponsored by the coup makers.
Parliament adopted two charter amendment bills in the first reading on Nov 18 last year.
Lawmakers will convene for the second reading of the bills on Feb 24 and 25.