Progressive Movement's charter amendment bill voted down

Progressive Movement's charter amendment bill voted down

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Progressive Monument, centre, Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the opposition Move Forward Party, right, and other key party members at a press conference after their bill to decentaralise local government was  rejected by a joint sitting of parliament on Wednesday. (Capture from video on Move Forward Party Facebook)
Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Progressive Monument, centre, Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the opposition Move Forward Party, right, and other key party members at a press conference after their bill to decentaralise local government was rejected by a joint sitting of parliament on Wednesday. (Capture from video on Move Forward Party Facebook)

A constitutional amendment bill seeking to revise Chapter 14 of the charter to decentralise control of local administrative bodies was voted down in the first reading by a joint sitting of parliament on Wednesday.

The draft was proposed by the Progressive Movement led by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and supported by 76,591 signatures. It was submitted to parliament in July.

After a debate last week parliament set Wednesday for a vote on the bill in the first reading.

To pass the first reading, the bill needed support from more than half, or 361, of the combined 722 active members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. It required the support of one-third of the sitting senators, or 84 of them, to pass.

Parliament President Chuan Leekpai announced that the joint sitting voted 254-245 in support of the bill, with 129 abstentions. The supporting votes comprised less than half of the current members of parliament. Moreover, less than the required one-third of senators voted in support of the bill.

The bill was defeated in the first reading and therefore dismissed.

At a press conference after the bill was rejected, Mr Thanathorn said he regretted that the country had lost a good opportunity to move forward. 

The Progressive Movement would continue its campaign for decentralisation of local government and campaign for better understanding of the ideas put forward in the bill.

He viewed as unreasonable claims that the proposals were too extreme. Certain people were afraid that the idea would lead to the division of the country. Such remarks were too harsh and their fears were unreasonable.

"Your fears are imprisoning the future of the country and of future generations. Is it (the bill) extreme or not? I want to ask them in return whether letting people's problems go untackled for tens of years is extreme conservatism or not.  I assure you that what we are doing and proposing is not extreme. Those who are locking  up the country are the extremists,'' Mr Thanathorn said.

He insisted that the bill was not aimed at abolishing kamnan (tambon leaders) and phuyai ban (village heads) as opponents alleged.

When it was submitted to parliament, the bill drew critical comment from various parties.

Senator Lertrat Rattanawanich, for one, said last week that the bill was too radical and difficult to be put into practice. He did not think more than one-third of the senators would vote for the bill.

Gen Lertrat said in his view there were two major points of contention in the proposal.

The first was the allocation of budget funding for local administrative organisations. The second was the dissolution of the provincial offices of the central administration, their duties to be taken over by local administrations.

Under the amendment, the government would have allocated 50% of net revenue for local government. For instance, if net revenue was 2.5 trillion baht, 1.25 trillion baht would go to local administrations.

The other point of contention was the requirement for a plan for the dissolution of state offices in the provinces to be drawn up in two years, and a public referendum on the plan be held in five years. If the people agreed with the plan, state offices for public health, transport, energy and others - except security and foreign affairs - would be dissolved.

The proposal also required parliament to amend five or six relevant laws within 180 days, which would be very difficult to do, the senator said.


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