Thailand: Prayut says he supports charter amendment

  • Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha says the government will support a move to amend the 2017 constitution but does not confirm whether the agenda will be included in the policy statement to be declared to Parliament on 25 Jul 19.
  • Changing the charter by 2020 is an election promise of the Democrat, one of the coalition parties, as well as the seven opposition parties. But to date the core coalition party Palang Pracharath, which nominated Gen Prayut as prime minister, has been lukewarm to the idea, saying that it is not urgent and that the charter is a good tool to get rid of corruption.
  • After the first meeting of the coalition party members in week ending 14 Jul 19, the issue was said to have been put on the back burner, raising the question the Democrats would make good on their promise.
  • “We’ll support it because there really are problems with some laws and they need to be changed. We’re not at odds with anyone and we’re the government of [everyone in] the country,” said PM Prayut.
  • The opposition parties want to go further than changing some provisions — they have pushed for the rewriting of the highest law.
  • Among the issues they want changed are provisions on how to amend the charter, which currently makes the process impossible.
  • They also want to change the election system, how senators are chosen and how the charter requires all governments to comply with the national strategy or face legal action, among others.
  • Under the current charter, amending it is not easy.
  • 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). These votes must include at least one-third of the senators (84), a tough feat considering all 250 senators formed a bloc to unanimously vote for Gen Prayut as prime minister earlier.
  • 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. In addition, 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).
  • What the opposition is planning to do is to unlock the amendment by changing the section governing it so that an elected body can rewrite the entire charter, with people’s participation and two referendums held — before and after it is done.

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