MPs urge charter change
Govt, opposition file motions for debate
A group of Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) MPs on Friday tabled an urgent motion to the House of Representatives to push for amendments to the constitution.
PPRP MP Wichian Chavalit yesterday submitted the motion signed by 50 party MPs to House Speaker Chuan Leekpai to ask the House to set up a committee and public hearings to study criteria for amending the 2017 charter.
Mr Wichian said the motion was submitted on behalf of the PPRP and had nothing to do with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Mr Wichian added that an emphasis should be placed on public participation.
He also said he believed that a committee comprising both government and opposition MPs can work together without any conflict.
He added it will be left to the House to consider whether to invite outsiders such as Meechai Ruchupan, former chairman of the now-defunct Constitution Drafting Committee, to participate.
The document which was submitted to Mr Chuan says the 2017 constitution was endorsed in a referendum with more than 16.8 million voting in favour which paved the way for a general election to take place on March 24, 2019.
However, the constitution contains some controversial provisions such as the one which governs the way party-list seats are calculated and allocated, according to the document.
Amendment of the charter was one of the 12 priorities detailed in the policy statement which the new government spelt out before parliament.
Amending or redrafting the charter was also a campaign pledge of seven opposition parties, including Pheu Thai and Future Forward.
The Democrat Party too, a key coalition partner, insisted on charter change as a precondition for joining the PPRP-led coalition.
The Democrats and the opposition parties earlier initiated their own separate motions in parliament to form a committee to study a rewrite.
At a House meeting yesterday, Pheu Thai leader Sompong Amornwiwat asked for his party's motion which occupies a low spot on parliament's agenda to be moved up for immediate consideration.
Democrat MP for Nakhon Si Thammarat Thepthai Senpong and Mr Wichian also made similar requests for their motions to be prioritised.
Mr Chuan initially suggested yesterday's House meeting had a backlog of 23 motions to clear first, including issues related to the scrutiny of the high-speed project linking three major airports.
However, Mr Chuan later relented and called a vote on expediting the charter-related motions with the House agreeing by a vote of 425-0 to address them in its next meeting.
Yuttaporn Issarachai, a political scientist from Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, yesterday said rewriting the constitution will not be easy as the current document lays down tough conditions for amendments.
Even though both the government and opposition MPs agree in principle on the issue, details of their separate proposals have yet to be discussed.
Differing views and conflicts could emerge regarding the specifics, Mr Yuttaporn said.
"If they go into detail, I believe problems and conflict will arise. Therefore, with common ground on details having yet to be found, I don't think any kind of charter writing process can take place soon,'' he said.
Mr Yuttaporn added he disagreed with the idea of setting up a committee to study the proposed charter amendments because plenty of information and several studies on the matter have already been made available by academic institutes.
"Simply put, now is the time to box, not the time for footwork. Setting up a committee is only a bid to buy time,'' he said.
He added it will not be easy to finish amending the charter during the first four-year term of the new government, due to the process requiring many steps, in terms of the law and consultation.
"If the amendment is not completed during the first two years of this government's tenure, the current government, which benefits from the current charter, is likely to stay on for a second or third term," Mr Yuttaporn said.