Pheu Thai people’s charter still unfulfilled seven months in

Picture courtesy of Bangkok Post

The Pheu Thai Party’s promise to craft a people’s charter that would engage an elected assembly and a public referendum while honouring Thailand’s constitutional monarchy remains unfulfilled after seven months in power.

The 2017 charter, considered by some as a leftover from the 2014 coup, has yet to see any amendments.

The initial months of the Pheu Thai government were dedicated to exploring the potential design of a referendum for charter modification under the supervision of Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai. Two sub-committees were established to evaluate public sentiment on the matter and devise guidelines for a referendum.

Phumtham’s panel concluded that holding a trio of referenda would provide a more secure legal footing. However, this decision was not presented to the Cabinet for consideration until last week, following Pheu Thai list-MP Chusak Sirinil’s submission of a bill to Parliament in January to alter the constitutional clause governing amendments.

Despite resistance from some quarters, who saw it as a ploy to pave the way for a new charter requiring a preliminary referendum, the ruling party maintained that MPs have complete authority to amend the charter.

Consequently, the bill failed to make it onto the parliamentary agenda, prompting a vote in the House to seek a ruling from the Constitutional Court on the dispute and the number of charter amendment referenda required.

In mid-April, the court dismissed the petition, ruling that it had already addressed the issue and that it fell outside the parliament’s jurisdiction. The court had previously ruled that a charter rewrite could not commence without a preceding referendum.

Nikorn Chamnong, the head of the sub-panel gathering opinions on the matter, said that the objective of the charter amendment is to democratise the charter without revising Chapters 1 and 2. However, opinions on the number of referenda needed vary, hence the establishment of two sub-panels to ensure a comprehensive representation of perspectives.

Charter rewrite

Nikorn, a Chartthaipattana Party list MP, stated that the decision on the referendum has returned to the government following the court’s dismissal of the petition. Once the Cabinet endorses the Phumtham panel’s recommendations, the issue will be forwarded to the Election Commission which is required to act within 90 days.

Despite potential obstacles, Nikorn voiced his confidence that the entire charter rewrite process can be finished before the term of the current House expires in three years. He anticipates the first referendum will take place this year or next, with the charter drafting assembly likely to be established before 2026, reported Bangkok Post.

Despite the government’s efforts, Nutthawut Buaprathum, a list-MP of the main opposition Move Forward Party (MFP), claimed that the charter rewrite was included on the policy platforms of multiple parties in both the government and opposition camps.

He expressed doubt about the government’s political will to push the process forward, calling for the release of the committee’s reports and coordination with parliament to position the amendment bills on the agenda.

Politics NewsThailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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