PM 'won't hinder' charter bid
Public hearings must be held, says Prayut
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday said he has no objection to constitutional amendments, though some issues must undergo a public hearing process.
Speaking after a mobile cabinet meeting in Kanchanaburi, Gen Prayut said that it should be left to parliament to undertake the process, though he said he was ready to support amending the charter as it is part of the government's policy statement.
"Don't get me or the government involved. It's parliament's mechanism. I have nothing to do with it. It's about everyone working for the sake of the country,'' Gen Prayut said on Tuesday.
He added that those who are seeking to amend the constitution must be prepared to explain their reasoning to the public.
The opposition led by the Pheu Thai Party has campaigned vigorously to rewrite what critics describe as a seriously flawed constitution.
One of the key issues targeted for change is a charter provision allowing senators to join the House of Representatives in voting for a prime minister.
The Democrat Party, a coalition partner, also insisted on charter change as a precondition for joining the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP)-led coalition government.
Constitutional amendment was one of the 12 priorities detailed in the policy statement that the Prayut Chan-o-cha administration declared before parliament.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa, a key figure in the coalition Chartthaipattana Party, said that coalition parties had not yet discussed their quota of seats on the House committee to deliberate the matter.
He said his party had not thought of competing against other parties for the committee chairman post, adding that the chairman chosen should be flexible and experienced.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said that senators should also have a role to play on the committee as the Upper House's help will be needed to ensure the process proceeds smoothly.
Asked by reporters if it would be proper to allow senators who are seen as "stakeholders" to sit on the committee, Mr Wissanu said: "Aren't MPs stakeholders too? In fact, everyone is.
"If you want the committee to be free of stakeholders, all committee members must be neutral with no affiliations to political parties."
Mr Wissanu had earlier said no cabinet ministers would take part in the study of the proposed constitutional amendments.
Government and opposition whips had originally decided that there would be 49 members on the panel; 18 representing the coalition government, 19 from the opposition, and 12 from the cabinet.
However, the inclusion of cabinet ministers was dropped as they may not have enough time to attend meetings, according to Mr Wissanu.
The exclusion of cabinet ministers would leave 12 seats vacant, six of which are expected to be filled by senators, members of independent agencies and the government's legal experts, while the other six seats will be taken up by individuals chosen by the government whip.
Energy Minister and PPRP secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong said that senior figures in the coalition have been discussing who will chair the committee.
He said the PPRP is expected to be given a quota of 10 members on the committee, as agreed upon with coalition parties.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, who chairs the PPRP strategic committee, on Tuesday declined to comment when asked by reporters if Borwornsak Uwanno, former chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, had been approached to head the committee.
Education Minister and PPRP deputy leader Nataphol Teepsuwan insisted political etiquette required the committee chairman be from the main government party.
Asked if Mr Borwornsak was suited to the role, Mr Nataphol said that Mr Borwornsak was a qualified candidate, but stressed that the public were more concerned with seeing bread and butter issue addressed rather than charter amendment.
Sutin Klungsang, the opposition chief whip and Pheu Thai MP for Maha Sarakham, has backed former Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva for the role. However, Mr Abhisit earlier told the Bangkok Post he has yet to decide whether he would participate.