23 May 2024

Democrat party leader Jurin Laksanavisit has proposed that parliament seeks a ruling from the Constitutional Court about the validity of the constitutional amendments bill, due for its third-reading and vote, and on exactly when a referendum is to be held to seek public consent for the writing of a new Constitution.

Jurin’s proposal came amidst intense debate in the joint session of parliament today, over the fate of the bill. Parliament is clearly divided, with the opposition determined to press for the third-reading and vote, while most of the senators and several government MPs, except the Democrats, believe that the bill must be dropped, now that the Constitutional Court has ruled that parliament can write a new charter after a referendum to seek public consent is held.

Senator Paiboon Nititawan insisted that that Constitutional Court’s ruling means that parliament cannot write a new charter unless a referendum is held first.

Citing the court’s ruling, which makes no mention of the proposed Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA), he said that parliament cannot designate the CDA to draft a new charter, adding that amending Chapter 15 of the Constitution, to abolish the existing charter, is against the principle of the people who installed the charter and, hence, a third-reading vote on the charter amendments bill cannot be held.

In his opinion, the process of writing a new charter must be initiated by parliament and, if approved, a referendum must be held to seek public consent.

Paiboon’s opinion was backed by another conservative Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn.  He cited the opinion of parliament’s legal team that the third-reading vote cannot proceed until there is a referendum.

The opposition Pheu Thai MP Somkid Chuakong argued that nowhere in the Constitutional Court’s ruling does it state that parliament cannot proceed with the third reading. The apparently frustrated MP said it is better not to have a parliament if it cannot vote on the third reading.

The Democrat leader proposed that parliament ask the Constitutional Court to rule on four contentious issues, namely whether the charter amendments bill is intended to amend the charter by amending Section 256 or to write a new charter by amending Chapter 15, to set up a CDA.

The second issue is whether the referendum is to be held before the vote on the first reading or after the vote on the third reading. The third issue is about exactly when a referendum is to be held and the final issue is about whether the pending constitutional amendments bill is still valid.