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Experts craft charter changes

Jan 11. 2017
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Ten-man panel to draft amendments suggested by King in constitution

THE KINGDOM’S top legal experts will soon get together to push forward amendments to the draft charter to fit what the government and lawmakers describe as the “circumstances of the modern world”. 

“The clauses to be amended were not paid attention to before the referendum, because drafters had only copied them from the previous constitution. Now, however, the situation in the country has changed, so they will have to be amended to meet the situation. Otherwise, we will be using principles that were written in 1932,” Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said yesterday.

His Majesty the King had earlier advised the government to amend a section in the draft charter pertaining to the King’s prerogative in appointing a regent in the event of his absence or inability to perform his Royal duties. 

Chief charter drafter Meechai Ruchupan said this amendment would give the King the option of either appointing or not appointing a regent should he not reside in the Kingdom. 

The charter draft currently allows the president of the Privy Council to be Regent pro tempore if the King does not name a regent. “These clauses would be altered to change that provision,” Meechai said. Somchai Sawangkarn, a National Legislative Assembly (NLA) member and secretary of the NLA whip, said yesterday that it might not be necessary to name a regent because modern communication methods have made it easy and convenient to work remotely. The charter should be amended to meet this environment, he told The Nation. 

Also, every time a regent is in charge, he or she has to take an oath in Parliament, Somchai said, adding that this may be an unnecessary burden especially when the King is away on short trips. 

NLA to take up readings

The 2014 Interim Constitution will be amended by the NLA in three consecutive readings tomorrow, paving the way for the revision of the charter draft. Wissanu said that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha should get the draft charter from the King within 30 days, before he sets up a special committee to amend the draft in line with His Majesty’s advice. 

The committee will comprise 10 top legislators including Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) chairman Meechai, NLA President Pornpetch Vichitcholchai and chairman of the now-defunct Constitution Drafting Committee Borwornsak Uwanno. 

The amendments will have to be completed and submitted to the King for endorsement within 30 days after His Majesty returns the draft. The draft will then have |to receive Royal endorsement within 90 days or it will have to be dropped. 

The deputy premier also promised that the issue of rights and freedom in the constitution would be left untouched. 

Wissanu, meanwhile, said the timetable for writing organic laws would remain unchanged. Once the draft is submitted for Royal endorsement, the CDC should have the organic laws ready within 240 days, he said, adding the NLA would then deliberate on it for 60 days and spend 30 days on revisions if there are any. The organic laws will then be handed in and receive Royal endorsement within 90 days, and elections could be held within 150 days of the promulgation of the laws, Wissanu said. 

All steps are necessary and must be completed in the right order, the deputy PM added. 

He explained that this was part of the road map, which is clear and has a fixed timeframe, adding that it cannot be shortened or extended and that it depended on the amount of time spent on each step. 

“It can only be expedited when everybody acknowledges this and lends a helping hand,” he said. 

Wissanu added that the government could have promised an election months ago, but the situation has changed and it was no longer possible to set an exact date. He also quoted the premier as saying that the royal cremation and coronation were the priority. 

Nothing should interfere with these two ceremonies, Wissanu said, though he refused to say whether an election could be expected this year. However, he said a date would be set and political parties would be allowed to resume their activities, including campaigning. 

Meanwhile, Meechai said yesterday that the interim and draft charters would have to be returned by the King by February 6, as that will mark the 90th day since the submission of the documents for Royal endorsement. 

As a member of the special committee, Meechai said he was not worried, as the only amendments to be made would be those suggested by His Majesty. 

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