PM vows to change charter
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PM vows to change charter

Govt to present own rewrite bill version

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha talks to the media on Tuesday. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
PM Prayut Chan-o-cha talks to the media on Tuesday. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has vowed to push for constitutional amendments, saying the government will present its own version of a charter rewrite bill in the next parliamentary session.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting, the prime minister said his position has been to support the House committee assigned to study charter amendments.

If and when the opposition submits a charter change bill to parliament, the government will also present its version, Gen Prayut said.

"We will have to wait for the proposals from the committee. The government is already preparing its own version of the bill. I expect that constitutional amendments will be considered at the next parliament session. The government is ready to cooperate fully," Gen Prayut said.

The premier's move comes amid mounting calls for controversial charter changes, particularly from the opposition and student activists.

He added that he has supported charter amendments where necessary. He will discuss charter change proposals with the House committee, and the ruling Palang Pracharath Party and its coalition partners will then work together on drafting their own bill.

"This is the correct mechanism. So don't stir up too much trouble at this time. We are trying to solve several problems at the same time," Gen Prayut said.

He also said the government will hold forums this month for "new-generation people" to voice opinions on what they want Thailand's future to be like.

The National Economic and Social Development Council and relevant ministries will be responsible for organising these forums, Gen Prayut said.

Jade Donavanik, a legal expert and former adviser to the Constitution Drafting Committee, told the Bangkok Post that he was doubtful about the use of the parliamentary mechanisms to amend the constitution.

This means the people will be sidelined from the process, and it is likely that any changes to controversial provisions, particularly those associated with the Senate, will be left untouched, Mr Jade said.

"If this mechanism is used, the scope of amendments will be limited. Parliament will not discuss the power of the Senate because those involved will try to stand in the way. In the end, nothing will be changed," Mr Jade said.

The Free Youth group and the Student Union of Thailand, which staged an anti-government protest on July 18, demanded the government dissolve parliament, stop using oppressive laws against opponents and rewrite the constitution.

To show his sincerity in supporting the constitutional amendments, the prime minister must be more specific about what charter change proposals the government will present to parliament, Mr Jade said.

Key Pheu Thai figures told a press briefing on Monday that charter amendments should be wrapped up quickly and without a referendum after the changes are finalised.

The present charter was approved in a referendum on Aug 7, 2016. Pheu Thai leader Sompong Amornvivat said the motion is centred on rectifying Section 256 of the charter to facilitate constitutional changes.

Under Section 256, an amendment requires the support of at least one-third of the Senate, or 84 senators. Critics have slammed the section as a major hurdle to fixing the charter.

Mr Sompong said the section should be altered so an assembly can be established to draft a new constitution, with or without the support of the Senate.

The Pheu Thai leader said other ways of pursuing the amendment would take too much time and that it would also be too costly to hold a referendum on the new charter.

Two pressing amendments which the opposition lawmakers are seeking concern the election system, which they have castigated as "complicated" and "unfair", and the appointment of the Senate, which is seen as favouring the government.

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