MFP urges three referendums on charter rewrite
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MFP urges three referendums on charter rewrite

Opposition leader calls meeting with government panel ‘positive’ but key differences remain

(Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
(Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The opposition Move Forward Party (MFP) has suggested that three referendums, as opposed to two stipulated by the Constitutional Court, be held to decide on amendments to the charter.

The party conveyed its stance to the government committee in charge of gauging opinions from related parties and the public about replacing the 2017 constitution drafted by the former military junta.

The committee, chaired by Nikorn Chamnong from the Chartthaipattana Party, has been meeting parties to sound out their views on proposed charter changes. On Tuesday it was the panel’s turn to obtain input from Move Forward, whose leader, Chaithawat Tulathon, described the meeting as smooth and positive.

Move Forward insisted the charter amendment should address three main issues: how many referendums should be held, what the question in the first referendum should be, and what parts of the charter should be rewritten.

Mr Chaithawat said there should be three referendums instead of two as stipulated by the Constitutional Court. In 2021, the court ruled the public must approve any move by parliament to amend the entire charter, and if that first referendum is approved, another must be held to see if people approve of the new content.

The opposition leader argued that a referendum should be carried out even before parliament proposes to proceed with the amendments. It should precede the two court-stipulated referendums.

The first referendum suggested by Move Forward would allow the public to decide if the charter should be rectified at all. It would also provide for an inclusive process in determining charter changes. If this happened, the amendments would be designed in line with democratic principles, according to Mr Chaithawat.

He also reiterated the party’s position to push for the rewriting of the entire charter and to have a wholly elected charter redrafting body.

The position, however, contradicts the coalition government’s stance to steer clear of Chapters 1 and 2 in any amendment process, and to have a partially elected redrafting assembly.

Chapter 1 contains sections defining Thailand as a single, indivisible kingdom with a democratic regime with the King as the head of state, while Chapter 2 stipulates sections pertaining to royal prerogatives.

Mr Chaithawat stressed that no one should be made to feel they are excluded from the referendum process. The referendum questions should be instrumental in easing longstanding social and political conflicts.

However, he maintained it would be unrealistic for any one side to walk away from the amendment process with all their demands met.

Mr Chaithawat also asked the Nikorn panel to consider amending the Referendum Act to remove the requirement to attain a double majority before passing a referendum, which he said would be unnecessarily complicated.

Meanwhile, Mr Nikorn said the panel had managed to clear the air with the MFP over most charter amendment issues except for Chapters 1 and 2, and having a fully elected redrafting body.

Move Forward also disagrees with the existing legal requirement that for a referendum to pass, it must garner the support of more than half of eligible voters nationwide or at least 26 million votes. The party feels that at least 40% support among those who turn out to vote should suffice.

However, Mr Nikorn admitted that designing referendum questions would not be easy as they must be kept clear, concise and to the point.

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