By Attayuth Bootsripoom
The first amendment was made in July 2015, after a candidate for the Cabinet was found to be unqualified according to the original charter. A clause in the interim charter prohibiting anyone who had ever been banned from an election was adjusted accordingly.
Another amendment made at that time required that the National Reform Council (NRC) be dissolved soon after it voted on the first constitutional draft, written by a team led by Borwornsak Uwanno. An amendment clause called for a new process of drafting to start if Borwornsak’s draft failed to pass either an NRC vote or a national referendum. The amendments also stipulated that a National Reform Steering Assembly be set up to replace the dissolved NRC.
Then, in March last year, the interim charter was amended to delete a requirement that copies of the constitutional draft be mailed to at least 80 per cent of households before the referendum could be organised. The amendment also assigned the Election Commission to organise the national vote on the draft charter.
The third change to the interim charter took place in September last year, when the number of National Legislative Assembly (NLA) members was increased from 220 to 250. The argument was that new members would help shoulder the lawmakers’ workload.
A fourth constitutional change is now looming. It is expected to pave the way for revision to the charter draft that was approved by a majority in the August 2016 referendum. The draft was submitted to the Palace for royal endorsement in early November and His Majesty the King has 90 days – until February 6 – to decide whether to endorse it and thus permit its promulgation as the supreme law.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha confirmed on Tuesday that the interim charter would be amended to make way for revision of the new charter’s chapter regarding the King. Prayut said that during their meeting at Government House on Monday, privy councillors informed him that His Majesty had suggested revisions to “three to four items” in the chapter to better reflect royal powers.
Prayut said these clauses do not involve the rights and liberties of the people. They were directly related to the royal powers, he added.
One suggested change would empower the King to decide whether a regent should be appointed when he is outside the country or otherwise unable to perform his duties.
Another suggested alteration would require that the prime minister ensures revision to the constitutional draft in a way suggested by the King. Then the revised draft would be resubmitted for royal endorsement. In case the King does not endorse the revised draft within 90 days, the draft shall be considered void.
The NLA is scheduled to convene tomorrow to deliberate on the amendments that pave the way for revision of the draft constitution.
As soon as the new constitution is promulgated, the countdown to the general election will begin. The prime minister has promised to lift the ban on political activities after the completion of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s funeral rites and HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s coronation late this year.