Pheu Thai charter bill may be shelved
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Pheu Thai charter bill may be shelved

Chuan's adviser says setting up a constitution drafting council is unconstitutional

(Bangkok Post file photo)
(Bangkok Post file photo)

Two opposition parties have voiced concerns after an adviser to the Parliament president said the charter amendment bill proposed by the Pheu Thai Party may not be put on the meeting agenda this coming week.

Sukit Attopakorn, an adviser to House Speaker Chuan Leekpai, who is also president of the Parliament, said on Friday the constitution amendment bill of Pheu Thai would in effect abolish the 2017 constitution and was against a Constitutional Court ruling.

Since it is not a constitutional amendment bill by section as its name suggested, Dr Sukit said the House speaker could not put it on the agenda. 

The Pheu Thai bill seeks to change Section 256 of the 2017 charter in effect now so that a constitutional drafting council (CDC) can be set up to write a new charter.

Chusak Sirinil, deputy leader of Pheu Thai, argued on Saturday that the Constitutional Court did not prohibit writing a new charter and Parliament could use a section on charter amendments to pave the way for a rewrite. In its ruling in March, the court only said people must be asked first in a referendum whether they want a new charter, he said.

Chaitawat Tulaton, secretary-general of the Move Forward Party, said on Saturday Parliament had the mandate to deliberate the Pheu Thai bill.

“The Constitutional Court previously ruled a referendum must be held before a new charter can be written.

The court, however, did not say at which stage it should be held. It also did not say that parliament could not deliberate an amendment bill to set up a CDC.

“It’s therefore inappropriate if the Parliament president concludes that such a bill could not be put on the meeting agenda. If a consensus is needed on when a referendum should be held, it should come as a resolution of Parliament, not the discretion of the [Parliament] president,” he said.

Mr Chaitawat said that although Move Forward did not agree with the Pheu Thai bill, which prohibits any changes to the first two chapters on the King and the rule of the country, the party insisted Parliament could deliberate the Pheu Thai bill.

In any case, Move Forward will urge parliamentarians to pass the referendum bill on Tuesday as scheduled.

“Once it is passed, we would file a motion to inform the cabinet to hold a referendum to ask people whether they want a new constitution written and, if so, by the setup of a CDC,” he said.

At least 14 charter amendment bills from both sides of the House will be debated on Wednesday and Thursday. They are all “by section” because the Constitutional Court ruled that a referendum must be held first to ask people whether they want a new one to be written.

Another bill, the most progressive one, will likely be proposed by a group called Re-Solution, led by Parit Wacharasindhu, a former member of the Democrat Party, Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw), and Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul of the Progressive Movement. It is in the process of signing up at least 50,000 people as required under a new law. As of Saturday, 20,000 people had signed up. 

In proposing them, the coalition and the opposition share some common views, mainly on the election system. Both want the system used in 1997 where a voter gets to vote twice — on a candidate in his constituency and a party he likes.

Their main difference is changes to the status of the 250 senators appointed by the junta for a five-year tterm. Palang Pracharath is the only party that does not want any change made to their power or how they come into office.

In the absence of any changes, the senators will still be in place after the next election, with another opportunity to vote on the selection of the prime minister. In 2019, every single one of them voted for the candidate proposed by Palang Pracharath — Prayut Chan-o-cha, the man who appointed them.

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