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Opposition takes charter change campaign to public 

Jun 25. 2019
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By THE NATION

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On 87th anniversary of Siamese Revolution, antijunta camp targets clauses ‘aimed at entrenching’ the military’s role 

THE anti-junta camp chose the 87th anniversary of the Siamese Revolution yesterday to kick off its campaign for amendments to the junta-sponsored Constitution, vowing to make it democratic for the benefit of the country and the people.

A working group has been formed to campaign among the public to push for amendments to the current “undemocratic” Constitution, a politician from the opposition Puea Chart Party said yesterday.

Ketpreeya Kaewsanmuang, the spokesperson for the Puea Chart Party, said the campaign was launched yesterday to coincide with the establishment of the democratic Thai state and the promulgation of the country’s first charter on June 24, 1932.

She said the opposition bloc’s goal was to amend the Constitution, written after the military coup of May 2014, to “make it democratic for the maximum benefit of the country and the people”.

The politician also reminded that when King Prajadhipok abdicated following the Siamese Revolution of 1932, he agreed to pass on his royal powers to the general public and not to any particular group of people.

Ketpreeya said the current Constitution was written for the benefit of the ruling junta – the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) – without taking into account “the true voice of the people”. Clauses in the charter were aimed at entrenching the NCPO in power, she said.

She said that in the run-up to the public referendum on the draft constitution, detractors of the charter and those who had made accusations of vote rigging faced legal actions, which resulted in fines and imprisonment. Among the victims were Puea Chart’s “main campaigners” Yongyuth Tiyapairat and Jatuporn Prompan, she added.

Both men are key leaders of the red-shirt movement. Due to their previous legal offences, both Jatuporn and Yongyuth are prohibited by law from contesting an election.

The opposition’s working group on constitutional amendments is headed by Prachachart Party secretary-general Thawee Sodsong, with Pheu Thai Party deputy secretary-general Paophum Rajanasakul serving as its secretary, according to Ketpreeya.

She said the working group would work with all sections of the public in order to determine the main topics in the Constitution that should be amended.

Pheu Thai spokesperson Laddawan Wongsriwong also emphasised the need to amend the charter yesterday in her speech celebrating the 87th anniversary of Thailand’s democracy. 

The politician noted that there were grounds to believe the Constitution and the organic laws may have been written to favour the NCPO and its network.

For instance, the charter laid out the mechanism to empower the Senate and the independent agencies, she explained. She said it was highly likely that all these measures were aimed at enabling the NCPO to retain power after the election.

Unless these mechanisms were removed from the Constitution, it would be impossible for democracy to thrive in Thailand, the Pheu Thai politician stressed. She urged the elected MPs to collaborate and amend the Constitution, also with public participation in all stages, to make it more democratic and prevent the junta from exploiting it.

The Constitution, written by a junta-appointed commission, however, had clauses that make amendment an uphill task.

Any proposal for amendment must be made by one-fifth of the members of the lower house or both houses or by a petition signed by 50,000 people.

To be successful, the amendment must pass three readings in Parliament. But the first and last readings of the amendment would need the support of one-third of the junta-appointed senators. 

Observers view any amendment as almost impossible without the junta’s consent.

However, sources in Future Forward Party revealed steps towards amendments, borrowing ideas that led to the creation of the 1997 Constitution.

The steps would include amending particular clauses that were especially problematic. That would open the way for the setting up of a new constitution writing committee to draft a new Constitution altogether, the sources said.

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