Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw), a non-profit organisation, has submitted to the Parliament president what it calls the people's constitution amendment bill backed by more than 100,000 who signed up to support it.
With five side carts filled with boxes in tow, staff of iLaw and its allies on Tuesday afternoon took a one-hour walk from the MRT Tao Pun station to Parliament on Kiak Kai Road in Bangkok.
The boxes were filled with forms signed by 100,732 people and copies of their IDs as required for a bill proposed by people.
Since 1997, Thai constitutions have allowed 10,000 to 50,000 voters to propose a bill, which will then be deliberated by lawmakers. To date, no such efforts have been successful because of the long, cumbersome process, which requires all the names be verified comprehensively.
iLaw manager Yingcheep Atchanont said on Tuesday upon reaching Parliament that some 200-300 people had helped iLaw with the process, which he claimed was finished in record time. He thanked all 100,732 people who made it possible.
Jiranuch Premchaiporn of the constitution campaign network said more than 60% of the supporters were women.
Thatthep Ruangprapaikitseree of pro-democracy Free People said his group was determined to make the charter amendment process as open as possible.
“People must be able to amend any section in a charter. We won’t tolerate restrictions on anything,” he said, referring MP’s six versions, some of which prohibit changes to be made to chapters 1-2 on general provisions and the King before a drafting body is even set up.
iLaw director Jon Ungphakorn said that to date lawmakers had never paid attention to legislation proposed by civil society.
“It remains to be seen whether Parliament would take note of these 100,732 names. People have fought peacefully even though all they get in return is violence... If President Chuan [Leekpai] does not consider it, he's not an advocate of democracy in my view,” he said.
Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat said this was politics of possibility.
“We have seen now that in a span of only 43 days, so many people signed up... Don’t let anyone rob this last chance of Thailand — a constitution drafting council must be directly elected by people,” he said.
Somboon Uthaiwiankul, secretary-general of the House speaker, came out to take the boxes on behalf of Mr Chuan.
Mr Chuan said on Tuesday morning the iLaw bill would not be put on the meeting agenda to be deliberated alongside six other bills of MPs on Wednesday and Thursday. He said it was too late since the names of people who signed up had to be checked first.
This means iLaw bill can only be deliberated in the next meeting session.
On this, iLaw argued it had submitted more than double the required 50,000 names. If there are mistakes in some of the forms, the remaining number should be more than enough to meet the required minimum. It urged the parliament president ot reconsider.
A point that makes the iLaw bill different from other versions submitted by MP is that there is no restriction on amendments, which can be done to any section.
Like most of the MPs bills, it advocates the setup of a fully elected constitution drafting body. The differences are that the iLaw bill sets the country as the single constituency instead of each province as a constituency to limit the influence of local politics that may interfere with the outcomes.
It also allows groups to run as charter-writer candidates, instead of just individuals. It says this will allow interest groups to send their representatives and have a say in the process.
The iLaw bill also does away with national reforms and national strategies introduced by the National Council for Peace and Order; requires that all local administrators be elected; and changes how members of independent organisations such as the Election Comission and the Constitutional Court are selected and requires fresh selections of members of these bodies.