Cabinet mulls three referenda
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Cabinet mulls three referenda

Phumtham: Seeks rubber stamp
Phumtham: Seeks rubber stamp

A first charter referendum is expected to take place in August if the cabinet acknowledges a recommendation that three referenda should be held over the course of amending the entire charter, according to Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai.

Mr Phumtham, who chairs a government panel studying the public votes needed to change the charter, said leaders of the government coalition parties have backed the three-referenda recommendation, and the cabinet is poised to endorse it on Tuesday at its weekly meeting.

He said the cabinet will also be asked to consider the draft questions to be asked at the first referendum. In essence, he noted, the voters will be asked if they support charter amendments except Chapters 1 and 2.

Chapter 1 defines Thailand as a single, indivisible kingdom with a democratic regime and the King as head of state, while Chapter 2 stipulates sections pertaining to royal prerogatives.

If the cabinet endorses the recommendation, the charter referendum will be forwarded to the Election Commission (EC), which is required to proceed within 90 days, he said. If there is no hiccup, the first referendum is expected to take place in August.

Mr Phumtham said the charter referendum study panel had gathered input from all stakeholders, including the main opposition Move Forward Party (MFP) and the Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw) group, although they refused to join the committee.

He insisted that not amending Chapters 1 and 2 is also the policy of the government and the coalition parties.

He called on the opposition camp to take part in the referendum if they want charter amendments to go ahead amid rumours that a campaign might be held to encourage people to boycott the referendum.

"I'm urging the opposition to think carefully about this because it will look like they want to continue with the junta-sponsored charter if they stay away.

"They should participate if they support a charter rewrite and help make it more democratic," he said.

MFP list MP Rangsiman Rome said on Monday that two referenda should suffice, noting that it would save money and time while still complying with the constitution.

"Holding two referenda is sufficient and prudent as people will decide if they agree with the process. Three rounds are redundant and will cost more money and time," he said.

At 3 billion baht each, critics argue that two referenda are good enough: the first on the necessity of a rewrite and a second to gauge whether to adopt it.

Meanwhile, Chartthaipattana Party list MP Nikorn Chamnong on Monday said if the referendum law is amended soon enough, the second referendum may be held on the same days as local elections, which would help save money.

When asked whether the draft question is "restrictive," he said the cabinet can shape it to align with its policy if it wishes.

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