Pheu Thai pledges to push charter referendum

Pheu Thai pledges to push charter referendum

The Pheu Thai Party has brushed aside a proposal to amend the constitution section by section and has vowed to move ahead with a plan to hold a referendum on charter amendment.

The decision was reached Friday at a meeting of the party's committee overseeing public relations and campaigning for the referendum.

The move is seen as a blunt rejection of a proposal by Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung who opposes a referendum and calls for the constitution to be amended section by section.

Noppadon Pattama, who chaired the committee, said the party has reached a clear position that it will proceed with a public referendum while the section-by-section charter amendment proposal will be shelved.

The committee has respected opinions about the section-by-section amendment from party members, but the party has now mobilised its resources to campaign for a referendum on charter amendment, said Mr Noppadon, a lawyer and close aide of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr Noppadon said he believed that with a vigorous campaign, more than half of eligible voters would take part in the referendum.

He warned against the Democrat Party's call for a public boycott against the referendum for a charter rewrite.

This could reflect negatively on the party which could be seen as running counter to the democratic system and the party's move could be in violation of the Referendum Act 2009, Mr Noppadon said.

Speaking after the committee meeting, party spokesman Prompong Nopparit said the results of various opinion polls gave the party confidence that more than a half of the estimated 46 million eligible voters would turn out.

It was the responsibility of all concerned to explain the issues to the people to make sure they understood the purpose of the amendment process and show up to vote in the referendum.

He said the government's campaign was not aimed at altering Section 309 of the 2007 charter, which legalised the actions of the military coup-makers who overthrew Thaksin in 2006.

The opposition Democrat Party has warned that if Section 309 is changed and the actions of the coup-makers invalidated, Thaksin's criminal conviction could also be thrown out. That could pave the way for him to return to Thailand without facing any punishment.

Mr Prompong said a party public relations committee will tell members at a meeting on Tuesday how to explain the referendum to people.

PM's Office Minister Varathep Rattanakorn, a member of the working panel on charter amendment, said the panel will hold its first meeting on Monday to gather input from all involved.

Mr Varathep said the panel will have to think of a question to be contained in the referendum which is acceptable to all sides and which can present a conclusion to charter amendment.

He said an absolute referendum is required to decide whether there should be a new constitution.

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