Prayut says he supports charter amendment

Prayut says he supports charter amendment

Deputy Prime Minister Gen Anupong Paochinda says a move to amend the charter must first come from Parliament, not the government. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)
Deputy Prime Minister Gen Anupong Paochinda says a move to amend the charter must first come from Parliament, not the government. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha says the government will support a move to amend the 2017 constitution but does not confirm whether the agenda will be included in the policy statement to be declared to Parliament on July 25.

Changing the charter in one year is an election promise of the Democrat, one of the coalition parties, as well as the seven opposition parties. But to date the core coalition party Palang Pracharath, which nominated Gen Prayut as prime minister, has been lukewarm to the idea, saying that it is not urgent and that the charter is a good tool to get rid of corruption. 

After the first meeting of the coalition party members last week, the issue was said to have been put on the back burner, raising the question the Democrats would make good on their promise.

Asked on Monday whether or not it would be in the policy statement of the new government, Gen Prayut declined to give a definite answer.

“We’ll support it because there really are problems with some laws and they need to be changed. We’re not at odds with anyone and we’re the government of [everyone in] the country,”

Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda pointed out the move had to be initiated by Parliament, not the government.

“We’re ready to support it so long as the process is constitutional,” he said.

The opposition parties want to go further than changing some provisions — they have pushed for the rewriting of the highest law.

Among the issues they want changed are provisions on how to amend the charter, which currently makes the process impossible. They also want to change the election system, how senators are chosen and how the charter requires all governments to comply with the national strategy or face legal action, among others.

Under the charter in effect today, amending it is not easy.

First, 100 MPs are needed to submit the motion, which will then be deliberated in three readings by the joint sitting of both houses.

To pass the first reading, half the votes of both houses are needed (376). These votes must include at least one-third of the senators (84), a scenario that is next to impossible given how all 250 senators formed a bloc to unanimously vote for Gen Prayut as prime minister earlier.  

The second reading involves deliberation by section, which requires a majority vote of both houses to pass. People are allowed to propose ideas or opinions at this stage.

Fifteen days after the second reading is passed, the bill must be approved by a majority (376) in the third reading. However, of these 376 votes or more, they must come from parties whose members are not cabinet ministers, House speaker or his deputies at not less than 20% of the votes of these parties combined, as well as one-third of senators (86).

What the opposition is planning to do is to unlock the amendment by changing the section governing it so that an elected body can rewrite the entire charter, with people’s participation and two referendums held -- before and after it is done.

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