PM Promises to Amend the Charter: Government to offer a Version of its Own Reform Bill

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Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has promised to press for constitutional changes, saying that the government will present its own version of the rewrite bill at the next parliamentary session.

Speaking after a Cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister claimed that his position was to help the House Committee appointed to review the changes to the Charter. If and when the opposition submits a bill of amendment to the Charter to Parliament , the Government shall also submit its version.

The Prime Minister’s move comes in the midst of calls for controversial charter changes , especially from opposition activists and student activists. He added that he supported changes to the charter where possible. The House Committee will address the plan for a charter amendment, and the governing Palang Pracharath Party and its coalition partners will work together to draft their own legislation. He also said the government will hold “new generation people” forums this month to express views about what they want the future of Thailand to be like.

The National Economic and Social Development Council and the related ministries will be responsible for coordinating these forums. Jade Donavanik, a legal analyst and former advisor to the Constitutional Drafting Committee, told the Bangkok Post that he had reservations regarding the use of legislative processes to change the constitution. This means that people will be excluded from the process and it is possible that any amendments to contentious laws, in particular those affiliated with the Senate, will remain unchanged.

The Free Youth Group and the Student Union of Thailand, which held an anti-government demonstration on July 18, called on the government to dissolve the parliament, avoid using draconian laws against critics and rewrite the constitution.

In order to show its seriousness in supporting the constitutional reforms, the Prime Minister must be more clear about the proposed changes to the charter that the government would bring to Parliament. Key Pheu Thai figures told the press briefing on Monday that the charter amendments should be completed easily and without a referendum after the amendments have been finalized.

This Charter was approved in a referendum on 7 August 2016. Pheu Thai chief Sompong Amornvivat said that the motion was aimed at amending Section 256 of the Constitution in order to promote constitutional changes. Under Section 256, the amendment includes the support of at least one third of the Senate or 84 senators. Critics have found the provision a big obstacle to reforming the charter.

Mr Sompong said that the section should be changed so that a meeting can be set up to draft a new constitution, with or without the help of the Senate. The Pheu Thai chief said that it would take too much time to implement the amendment and that it would also be too expensive to hold a referendum on the proposed charter.

Two urgent changes demanded by opposition lawmakers concern the electoral system, which they have criticized as complicated and unfair, and the composition of the Senate, which is seen as beneficial to the government.

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