Highlights of the week

Highlights of the week

The main news focus this week was undoubtedly the conflict between the Constitution Court and the parliament over the court’s order that the parliament suspend the final reading of the constitution amendment bill, which was scheduled for today,Friday, until the bench has ruled on the constitutionality of the amendment process.

The court’s injunction provoked an uproar among Pheu Thai MPs and their red-shirt supporters. Government MPs demanded that the parliament defy the court an go ahead with the third reading vote on the charter amendment bill. The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) started a campaign seeking the impeachment of seven of the eight judges on the court bench, the majority who voted to accept for consideration the petitions, which challenge the constitutionality of the bill on the grounds that it might be designed to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.

A joint sitting of the Senate and the House on Friday morning began a debate on the Constitution Court’s injunction and the intent of the move to rewrite the charter.

It was not clear whether the Pheu Thai MPs would defy the court or not, although Parliament President and Pheu Thai list MP Somsak Kiatsuranont had already said earlier that the session today would not debate or vote on the charter amendment bill.

In the face of the conflict between the parliament and the Constitution Court, the Office of the Attorney General Thursday said that the parliament’s attempt to rewrite the charter was legitimate and that the claim of a plot to overthrow the constitutional monarchy was baseless.

OAG spokesman Winai Damrongmongkolkul said the six petitions to the Constitution Court did not include enough evidence for the court to halt the amendment process. He also insisted that the OAG had full authority to investigate the petitions before they were accepted by the court under Section 68 of the constitution.

Earlier Constitution Court president Wasant Soipisut insisted the court does have the authority to accept the petitions for consideration and to order a temporary halt of the amendment process while it reviews them.

He said that the court thought the alleged plot to overthrow the constitutional monarchy just might be possible and that the court needed to listen to the other side of the story.

"Every judge is concerned about the country and no one wants an undesirable situation to happen. Everyone must help and obey the rules and to make clarifications. Do not mistakenly view the judges as biased. We have never been (biased) but we have often been seen as being partial," said Mr Wasant.

The European football championship or Euro 2012, is due to kick off Friday night Bangkok time, and the big, unanswered, question for tens of thousands of subscribers to TrueVisions cable network was whether they would be able to watch the games or just a blank screen.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission held a meeting Thursday with all parties concerned, including TrueVisions and GMM Grammy7, the Euro broadcast rights holder, to discuss the problem. After the meeting, the broadcasting regulator ordered TrueVisions to let its subscribers view the matches on free-TV channels via their set-top boxes.

NBTC said that TrueVisions is duty-bound to comply with its terms of service to its customers by broadcasting normal free-TV programmes continuously. But it seems possible this would be ignored by TrueVisions.

NBTC chairman Col Natee Sukolrat said subscribers could file complaints against True Visions if they are unable to see the matches on free TV stations and True itself could face fines ranging from 50,000 to five million baht a day.

The controversy over the extension of the skytrain operating contract took a new twist when the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) ruled this week that the deal between Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s business arm, Krungthep Thanakom Company, and Bangkok Mass Transit System, the current operator of the BTS skytrain, was likely to be nullified.

DSI chief Tarit Pengdith said Thursday that the BMA had no authority to extend the contract by another 13 years, allowing Bangkok Mass Transit System to operate the service for the next 30 years.

The DSI has asked BMA, Krungthep Thanakom and BTS to submit their explanations by June 18. Also, the DSI will meet on June 27 to decide whether the matter will be treated as a special case.

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