Charter panel pushing one referendum

Charter panel pushing one referendum

Rejects need for two votes before changes

One referendum, not two, will be held to decide the fate of an amended constitution, according to the House committee studying the proposed changes.

The committee has determined after reviewing the charter that the referendum will be organised only after the amendment draft bill has passed a third and last reading in parliament, but before it is presented for royal endorsement by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, said Wichian Chavalit, a Palang Pracharath Party MP and chairman of a sub-panel under the study committee.

The sub-panel contradicted earlier statements made by several lawmakers that two referendums will be needed -- one before parliament accepts the draft amendment bill in principle and again after it has been adopted in the third reading.

Mr Wichian said a referendum before the bill's acceptance is not constitutional.

He said the sub-panel was also due to report to the main committee on the issue of establishing the proposed Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) to deal with the amendments.

The sub-panel found that no provision in the constitution bars the CDA's establishment via the invocation of Section 256 of the charter.

The holding of a referendum is stipulated in this section as well, and it is the first time a referendum is mentioned in the constitution.

Mr Wichian insisted that for a referendum to take place, it must comply with a Constitutional Court ruling handed down in 2007.

The court ruled that charter amendment is an affair not restricted to parliament.

People must be asked to decide at a referendum whether they agree with charter amendments since the power to promulgate a constitution rests with the people, Mr Wichian said, referring the court's ruling.

The ruling was reflected in the current charter in which the referendum is regarded as a channel for people to show their views on charter amendments.

However, Mr Wichian noted minority members maintained it is against the constitution to form a CDA and that the referendum should come before the draft amendment bill is accepted in principle.

The sub-panel added that the referendum should put forth one question only to the public, which is whether or not people agree with the amendments.

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