Charter rewrite backers face court order

Charter rewrite backers face court order

MP fears verdict could spell Pheu Thai's doom

The Constitution Court has ordered the 416 lawmakers and cabinet ministers who voted in support of charter amendment drafts to justify their decision.

Thaksin: Pheu Thai must accept verdict

Critics have slammed the move as an attempt to meddle with the legislature's authority.

The instruction came after the charter court accepted yellow shirt co-leader Chamlong Srimuang's petition questioning if the charter rewrite proponents might have violated Section 68.

Section 68 involves the upholding of democratic rule with the King as head of state and allows judicial intervention in a case where an attempt to overthrow the constitutional monarchy is suspected.

Those ordered to give statements were 305 government MPs, 75 senators, cabinet members and the House speaker. They have 15 days to submit their statements.

Constitution Court spokesman Somrit Chaiwong said the court wants to hear the statements to decide if Maj Gen Chamlong's petition should be combined with five complaints that also question the legality of the charter amendment bid.

Mr Somrit said it is not known at this stage when a verdict will be issued after the court's two-day inquiry tomorrow and Friday.

Pheu Thai MP and legal expert Pirapan Palusuk yesterday decried the charter court for accepting the yellow-shirt leader's complaint.

He said the move comes despite criticism that the court has no authority to accept such a petition directly.

Mr Pirapan said the court had set a new precedent that broadens its power and indicates a bid to infringe on the work of the legislature.

He said a ruling against Pheu Thai would spell its doom. "The opposition will pick up from there and ask the anti-graft agency to impeach the charter amendment supporters," he said.

It is unclear if the charter court will also consider disbanding political parties if they are found guilty of breaching Section 68.

The government and red shirts yesterday played down concerns the charter court's inquiry could bring down Pheu Thai.

Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung said the worst-case scenario would be the charter change bid ending.

But he insisted the constitution does not prohibit a charter rewrite as claimed by some scholars who insist only individual sections can be amended.

"The court may rule against the charter amendment but is unlikely to impose punishment," Mr Chalerm said.

Deputy Agriculture Minister and red-shirt co-leader Nattawut Saikuar said the inquiry would strengthen the government. "It doesn't matter how the court rules. The issue has made the people who uphold righteousness stand on the government's side. The government will emerge stronger."

He said the red shirts were unlikely to rally at the Constitution Court tomorrow and Friday.

They would gather at their headquarters at a shopping mall in Bangkok's Lat Phrao district.

Mr Nattawut questioned the credibility of the witnesses, saying they are those who tried to overthrow the power of the people and joined the Democrat Party's political rally.

Deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has urged Pheu Thai to accept the charter court's decision to keep the country intact, said Pheu Thai MP Kriangsak Faisi-ngam.

He said Thaksin believed the charter court had no agenda and would rule based on the rule of the law.

Mr Kriangsak said the ousted prime minister also recommended the party back down from the reconciliation bill if the issue intensified political tension. "If things aren't ready, he said the bill should be delayed. It won't hurt," he said.

Pheu Thai MP and red-shirt leader Korkaew Pikulthong said the red shirts were unlikely to back down if a ruling led to impeachment of government MPs voting in favour of the charter rewrite.

"But we will do it within the scope of the law to keep the government from trouble," he said.

The Constitution Court will today finalise the lists of witnesses from both sides who will testify in the two-day hearing. However, two potential witnesses yesterday denied being approached to testify.

Paiboon Warahapaitoon, a member of the National Human Rights Commission, said he was unaware of being called as a witness. Kanchanarat Leeviroj, adviser to the Administration Court, said she had never been approached.

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