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Opposition takes first step to amend charter

by qualityeducation

Opposition takes first step to amend charter

Motion to be submitted to speaker on Monday

(Bangkok Post file photo)

The six opposition parties have agreed to submit a motion to Parliament to amend the constitution, the first step that would open the door for the rewrite of the charter by a new council.

Sutin Klungsang, who led the opposition whips, said on Saturday more than 100, the required number of MPs, had signed the motion to amend Section 256, which governs how the 2017 constitution can be amended.

The motion will be sent to the House speaker on Monday. After that, coalition parties, the civil or public sectors, as well as other political parties, may submit their own versions of the same bill, he said.

The Pheu Thai MP for Maha Sarakham hopes all versions of the same bill would be deliberated in the current meeting session. By law, the House speaker is required to put a motion on the meeting agenda within 15 days after it is sent to him.

Pol Col Tawee Sodsong, secretary-general of the opposition PrachachatParty, said amending Section 256 is the first step to do so.

“A section should also be added to ensure all walks of life can participate like the Constitution Drafting Council in 1997. After a discussion, we agree we should allow people aged 18 or more to take part,” he said.

The consensus among opposition parties is that the 2007 charter is undemocratic as clearly seen in the last section, which legalises all National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) announcements and orders.

On the issue of senators appointed by the NCPO and empowered to elect a prime minister, Pol Col Tawee said opinions split.

“Some view the senators should no longer be allowed to elect a PM while others want to abolish appointed senators altogether. We haven’t reached an agreement on this,” he said.

He added the new charter should involve the people and allow them to set their own rules and future.

“The 2017 constitution focuses on welfare. Eligible people must prove how pitiful they are before they can get state aid and officials are empowered to screen them.

On the sensitive issues of the monarchy and national security under Chapters 1 and 2, he said there was no discussions about these but insisted the rule of the country must be a democracy with the king as head of state and a single state. 

Tough rules

Section 256 outlines the complicated process of changing the charter.

First, 100 MPs are needed to submit the motion, which will then be deliberated in three readings by the joint sitting of both houses.

To pass the first reading, half the votes of both houses are needed (376). And the votes must include at least one-third of the senators (84).

The second reading involves deliberation by section, which requires a majority vote of both houses to pass. People are allowed to propose ideas or opinions at this stage.

Fifteen days after the second reading is passed, the bill must be approved by a majority (376) in the third reading. However, of these 376 votes or more, they must come from parties whose members are not cabinet ministers, House speaker or his deputies at not less than 20% of the votes of these parties combined, as well as one-third of senators (86).

Section 255 also prohibits changing the rule of the country from a democracy with the king as head of state and the type of state from a single state. 

Changes involving six chapters, including those on the King, qualifications of certain positions, courts or independent organisations, require a referendum.

Besides, one-tenth of MPs or senators may ask the Constitutional Court to rule whether an amendment involves the two untouchable issues (a single state and a democracy with the king as head of state) or requires a referendum before it can be submitted to the King.     

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