The constitution amendment movement is picking up steam with the House committee responsible handing in its report, included in which is the suggestion to switch to the electoral system employed by the 1997 charter and the requirement that the prime minister must be an MP.
The report, which was handed in to House Speaker Chuan Leekpai on Monday, comes amid mounting calls for the rewrite and the establishment of a constitution-drafting assembly. The opposition camp submitted its version of a charter amendment motion on Aug 17 and the coalition government parties are expected to follow suit today.
Pirapan Salirathavibhaga, chair of the committee, said the panel's report is neither a handbook on amendments, nor a draft charter. The document is a comprehensive set of proposals aimed at facilitating the transition to a new set of constitutional rules.
According to Mr Pirapan, it touches on several key areas such as the proposed amendment to Section 256.
Section 256 says charter changes require the support of at least one-third of the Senate, or 84 senators. The section also stipulates that a national referendum is required if a would-be amendment involves the charter amendment process, the chapters on general principles or the monarchy.
He said while there is no guarantee that the report will be used in the charter amendment process, the panel's study is impartial and comprehensive and it can be used by any drafting assembly that may be formed.
Among the suggestions put forward by the committee is the return to the election system previously used in the 1997 constitution, which involves a simpler method of calculating list MPs and the requirement that the prime minister must be an MP.
As for the controversial Senate, the panel suggests that the role of the coup-appointed Senate is conflicting; while it is supposed to be politically impartial, it is empowered to join MPs in voting for a prime minister.
Another suggestion is the proposed abolition of Section 279 which endorses the actions of the now-dissolved National Council for Peace and Order.
Bhokin Bhalakula, the panel's adviser, stressed on Monday that all sides must accept the new charter when it is completed so that the country can move forward.
According to Mr Bhokin, the full set of recommendations is expected to be completed in February next year and it will then take 60 days to set up a charter drafting assembly.
Mr Chuan said on Monday the panel's initial report is likely to be put on the House agenda on Sept 10, but it can be moved up if the MPs consider it to be urgent.
Chinnaworn Boonyakiat, deputy government chief whip, said the government coalition parties will submit a motion seeking to amend the constitution to parliament this afternoon.
Under the government-sponsored motion, a 200-member charter-drafting panel will be set up to write the charter within 240 days and the draft will be determined via a referendum if parliament votes to reject it.
He said the Election Commission will be asked to determine the eligibility of students to join the drafting assembly, adding that the minimum age requirement is likely to be 18.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, meanwhile, called on anti-government demonstrators to abide by the law following reports that they plan to hold a massive rally on Sept 19 to step up pressure against the government.
Asked if he has a contingency plan should the protests turn violent, Gen Prayut said the police are also obliged to take legal action if laws are broken.
Gen Prayut said the government is open to the opinions voiced by students and expressed confidence that it is the right approach to address the political issues they are bringing up.