Activists begin quest to amend constitution

Activists begin quest to amend constitution

A group of activists calling themselves the “Social Democrat Movement” on Sunday launched a campaign seeking signatures from 50,000 voters to sponsor a motion for a charter rewrite.

The group was led by pro-democracy activists Yiamyod Srimunta, Burapa Lekluanngarm and Somyot Pruksakasemsuk. The launch of the campaign was held at the October 14, 1973 memorial on Ratchadamnoen Avenue.

Mr Yiamyod said the group’s goal was to amend the current junta-sponsored 2017 constitution which he claimed is the product of a coup and was written to help Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to prolong their grip on power without taking into account the true voice of the people.

“Clauses in the charter were clearly aimed at keeping Gen Prayut and NCPO in power. For example, the 250 non-elected Senators are allowed to join the vote for a prime minister who also doesn’t need to be MP,” he said.

Mr Burapa said the current charter needs to be amended urgently as it is undemocratic and was passed by a referendum that lacked transparency. Moreover, the charter also forced the government to stick with the junta's 20-year national development blueprint.

He said the electoral system based on the mixed member proportional system must also be amended as it put large parties, which gained many constituency seats, at a clear disadvantage and used a complicated mathematical formula which made it hard to understand.

Mr Somyot said the group will collect signatures across Thailand. Once the group receives 50,000 signatures, it will submit a motion to amend the charter to the Speaker of the House.

However, he admitted changing the charter would be an uphill task as it was written in such a way that amending it is almost impossible by following the normal process.

According to the Internet for People’s Laws Project, or iLaw, the process of amending the constitution would involve three phases.

The first is to propose the amendment which must gain more than half of the votes from both the House of Representatives and the Senate. That would necessitate votes from at least a third of all senators.

The second phase would be to put forward amendments to various sections, each of which would require a majority vote.

Any amendment endorsed by 50,000 signatures would allow a representative of the people to advocate it in parliament. 

The final phase involves another majority endorsement from both the House of Representatives and the Senate for the final document before it is offered to His Majesty the King for royal endorsement.

“It’s impossible to amend this constitution under the normal process. The only way to successfully amend the charter is to raise awareness and gain people support to change it,” Mr Somyot said.

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