The government has vowed that a rewrite of the constitution will be finished within its four-year term, saying work has already started to form a panel that will study a referendum to be held on amending the charter.
Deputy Prime Minister Phumtham Wechayachai made the comment on Tuesday in response to complaints from the Move Forward Party that the new administration appears to be dragging its feet on the issue.
Mr Phumtham is in charge of appointing the panel. His appointment was approved by the cabinet last Wednesday.
Rewriting the charter is one of the priority issues the Pheu Thai-led government has outlined.
“I am approaching people from various sectors, including legal experts,” Mr Phutham said. “This government wants more people to take part [in the charter rewrite process] and for the referendum to be held as quickly as possible.”
“The government will push for a charter rewrite and will find ways to ensure it is acceptable to all sides. We also will stick to the principle that chapters one and two of the constitution will be left untouched.”
Chapter 1 contains sections defining Thailand as a single, indivisible kingdom with a democratic regime and the King as the head of state. Chapter 2 contains sections pertaining to the royal prerogatives.
“We will hold talks with MPs and senators as well as civic organisations,” said Mr Phumtham. “However, the charter rewrite must be completed within four years. It is an urgent issue and the government wants it to materialise quickly.
Parit Wacharasindhu, a Move Forward list-MP, said earlier that the government’s move to set up a referendum study panel is just an attempt to buy time.
He pointed to a pledge made by the Pheu Thai Party on Aug 2 to hold a referendum on amending the charter, when it added that the public would be involved in setting up the charter-redrafting assembly.
However, the government appeared to be backsliding on its commitment to a charter rewrite, Mr Parit said.
The MP said the study panel would be formed by a prime ministerial order, not by a cabinet resolution, which demands stronger legal compliance.
Deputy House Speaker Pichet Chuamuangphan said on Tuesday that the charter rewrite process cannot be rushed.
He said that if the people support amending the charter, a drafting assembly would be set up.