Praise for PM's charter change pledge

Praise for PM's charter change pledge

Parties welcome Prayut's gesture

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha returns a salute from top brass after he attended the 133rd anniversary ceremony of the founding of the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy in Nakhon Nayok on Wednesday.(Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha returns a salute from top brass after he attended the 133rd anniversary ceremony of the founding of the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy in Nakhon Nayok on Wednesday.(Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Political parties have welcomed Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's pledge to support constitutional amendment as the House committee studying charter changes has initially agreed to a charter rewriting body being formed to draw up a new constitution.

Deputy Democrat Party leader Nipit Intarasombat, who is also a member of the committee, told the Bangkok Post on Wednesday that he believed Gen Prayut has been sincere in the charter rewrite push because it is one of the government's key policies.

"The prime minister has said he will listen to the House committee which has 49 members from various parties.

"He has also told agencies to gather opinions from the public and student protesters. He is eager to hear what they have to say. This is a nice gesture," Mr Nipit said.

Gen Prayut on Tuesday affirmed to reporters that he supports a charter amendment and the government will present its own version of a charter rewrite bill in the next parliamentary session.

He said on Wednesday the government will hold forums nationwide next month to gather opinions from younger people. A charter amendment is one of the demands sought by student groups which have held protests in various areas in the country.

Gen Prayut also said he will find time to meet students at one of a series of forums which are held on charter change proposals.

Mr Nipit said that the committee will complete its work in the middle of this month and present the charter rewrite proposals to parliament.

One of the key proposals is to rectify Section 256 of the constitution to make constitutional changes easier.

The section should be altered so an assembly can be established to draft a new constitution -- a process which may take up to two years.

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.

However, political observers said senators will not back the proposed amendments if they could result in the Senate being stripped of its power to vote in a prime minister and/or the current batch of senators being dismissed.

Mr Nipit said that the committee has also agreed that some sections of the constitution should be amended to prepare for an election that might take place before the draft of the new constitution is complete.

In particular, provisions targeted for change are those associated with the voting system such as moving away from the use of a single ballot for both constituency and party-list MPs to two separate ballots, Mr Nipit said.

Chief opposition whip and Pheu Thai Party MP for Maha Sarakham Sutin Klungsang, also a member of the committee, said Gen Prayut's gesture of support for the charter rewrite push was a good sign.

However, the prime minister must provide more clarity on details regarding the charter rewrite and a specific time frame, Mr Sutin said.

Mr Sutin also said parties in the opposition camp will table their version of a charter rewrite bill to parliament on Aug 15, the same day the House committee will present its charter change proposals.

Mr Sutin added that Pheu Thai has also come up with its version of the bill, although Pheu Thai will meet other opposition partners today to discuss whether they will combine their versions of the bill into a single one.

Democrat Party leader Jurin Laksanawisit said his party has had a clear stance on pushing to amend the constitution from the beginning because it insisted on charter change as a precondition for joining the coalition led by the Palang Pracharath Party.

Mr Jurin agreed that Section 256, which makes charter amendments difficult, should be changed.

He added the party is ready to support charter changes that will improve democracy.

The party has set up a working panel to work on amending the section, Mr Jurin said.

The panel is led by MP Banyat Bantadtan, who is a party adviser.

Mr Jurin added the Democrat Party did not want to be in conflict with others as a push to amend the constitution requires cooperation from MPs, senators and the public.

Chaithawat Tulathon, secretary-general of the Forward Party and member of the House committee, said the best way to make amendments is through a drafting assembly and public participation.


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