Referendum bill heads to parliament

Referendum bill heads to parliament

Move seen as vital for charter changes

Anti-government protesters under the banner of the People's Movement announce they will not join the proposed reconciliation committee at a press conference at Sanam Luang on Wednesday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Anti-government protesters under the banner of the People's Movement announce they will not join the proposed reconciliation committee at a press conference at Sanam Luang on Wednesday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

A bill on national referendums is on its way to parliament for scrutiny after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha signed off on it on Wednesday.

The bill is seen as necessary for the charter amendment process which will require at least one plebiscite.

Government spokesman, Anucha Burapachaisri, said yesterday the bill is being forwarded to the parliament president to put it on the agenda following approval from cabinet.

According to Mr Anucha, the bill, which is in line with a public hearing process under Section 77, is to ensure public participation in amending the charter.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, the government's expert on legal affairs, said the referendum bill can be scrutinised along with charter amendment drafts.

The proposed law will be jointly examined by MPs and senators.

Six different charter amendment bills are pending a parliamentary vote while another version proposed by civil group, iLaw, is expected to be tabled before lawmakers this month.

The momentum behind charter amendment screeched to a halt in late September when lawmakers decided to set up a special committee to study draft constitutional amendments and so delayed voting.

Mr Wissanu said the public will initially be asked a single question, which is whether they agree with the charter amendment.

Other questions can be added later but the procedure must comply with Section 166 of the constitution.

Among amendments requiring a referendum are changes to Chapter 1 which contains general provisions, Chapter 2 which deals with the monarchy, Chapter 15 which deals with constitutional amendments including Section 256.

Changes to provisions associated with the qualifications and powers of members of independent agencies, such as a provisional section allowing the Senate to join MPs in voting for a PM, also require a referendum.

He suggested that a politically neutral panel should be set up to deliberate additional questions if they deal with sensitive issues or matters in which the government has a vested interest.

Section 166 allows the cabinet to propose a question to be asked in a referendum but it does not allow the holding of one on an issue that is in conflict with the constitution or an issue that involves individuals or groups of people.

According to Mr Wissanu, it is deemed appropriate for the proposed national reconciliation committee to be asked to consider and phrase additional questions which may be needed for the referendum.

He also said a referendum on charter amendment is unlikely to be held simultaneously with the Dec 20 provincial administration organisation polls.



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