PM says 'no' to amending Sections 144 and 185
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha disagrees with amending Sections 144 and 185 of the constitution which he says serves as the core protection against corruption, amid the ruling Palang Pracharath Party's push to rewrite the two sections.
Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said the premier wants the two sections kept intact as they are effective in warding off graft.
Parliament on Wednesday began its two-day joint sitting of MPs and senators to consider 13 charter amendment bills tabled by political parties in the government's coalition and the opposition camp.
One bill was submitted by the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), four by the opposition parties and eight by the government's coalition parties.
Highly contentious were calls by the PPRP to amend Sections 144 and 185.
Section 185 specifically bars MPs and senators from using their position or influence to interfere for their own interest or the interest of a political party either directly or indirectly. Section 144, meanwhile, forbids lawmakers from increasing the annual budget expenditure bill. All they are permitted to do is trim the budget amounts during the scrutiny stage.
"The prime minister was following the [charter amendment] debate in the first reading on Wednesday. As prime minister and a citizen, he stands against changing the [two sections]," Mr Anucha said.
PPRP list-MP Paiboon Nititawan, who presented the bill on the PPRP's behalf, told the meeting that the PPRP would push through proposed charter amendments to disprove claims that the party and senators had tried to obstruct the charter amendment process.
The party's bill seeks to amend 13 charter provisions that cover issues regarding the protection of people's rights and freedoms, revising the voting system by shifting from the current single ballot for constituency and party-list MPs to two separate ballots.
The amendment bill also targets Section 144 and Section 185 of the constitution. Section 144 would be amended to ensure additional flexibility in the budgetary system while Section 185 would be revised to allow MPs to follow up on the government's efforts in solving social problems.
Critics said the proposed revisions would weaken mechanisms to tackle graft and malfeasance. But Mr Paiboon said that if the bill passed the first reading, he would ensure the original principles of the two sections would be restored when the bill is scrutinised by a vetting committee in the second reading.
The bill also includes proposed revisions to Section 270 to enable MPs to follow up on, make suggestions about, and expedite national reform plans. Currently, only senators have such a role.
Meanwhile, Parliament president Chuan Leekpai on Wednesday defended his decision to exclude a charter amendment bill seeking to revise Section 256 from the parliamentary agenda.
"No one can boss the Parliament President around. The decision was in line with the law. If I had defied the ruling [by the Constitutional Court] by including it on the agenda, I would have violated the constitution myself," Mr Chuan told parliament.
The charter amendment bill on Section 256 was taken off the agenda after the court ruled that an amendment to this section would involve replacing the charter, meaning a referendum before and after the rewrite would be required.