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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Govt reels under court blow; Bt2-tn transport bill approved; Heavy rain across South

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Govt reels under court blow
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The verdict of the Constitutional Court yesterday striking down a charter amendment for an all-elected Senate has put the ruling Pheu Thai Party and coalition partners under huge pressure as their 312 lawmakers could be subject to legal action for misconduct in passing the bill.

To Pheu Thai Party’s relief, the Yingluck Shinawatra government remains in power and still has a majority in the House, as the ruling imposed no sanctions. However, the coalition leader and its allies, the red-shirt movement, are on the defensive amid mounting calls by government opponents for Yingluck to resign.

Empowered by the ruling, anti-government groups and the opposition Democrat Party are ready to seek impeachment of the 312 lawmakers through the National Anti-Corruption Commission while some politicians want the prime minister to take responsibility for seeking royal endorsement.

The Constitution Court judges voted 5:4 that the content of the amendment – of having all senators elected – would violate the checks-and-balance principle, which is in violation of Article 68. They also ruled in a 6-3 vote that the amendment process was unconstitutional under various articles of the Constitution, including a glaring act caught on camera showing coalition MPs voting for the amendment using others’ identification cards.

The Pheu Thai Party yesterday postponed to today a meeting scheduled for yesterday. The main item on the agenda is to devise tactics to fight the charter court ruling, said party legal adviser Kramol Bandaipetch. The tactics include calling for a joint parliamentary session to discuss the ruling, with coalition MPs and Pheu Thai-friendly senators voting to reject the ruling: the joint session would then pass Article 291, which would activate in future the entire charter amendment, in the third reading.

Outside Parliament, the red shirts plan to launch a signature campaign to impeach the entire nine-member charter-court quorum, and then file a malfeasance case against all of them, under Article 157 of the Criminal Code.

Appointed Senator Rosana Tositrakul, one of the four petitioners seeking the court review on the bill, said: “It is normal to hold the prime minister accountable after a court ruling striking down the bill.”

Democrat MP and another petitioner, Wirat Kalayasiri, said he welcomed the verdict for setting a precedent against the domination of majority rule and the wrongful voting procedures. He said the outcome of the judicial review meant that the bill could not be enacted. He said he would cite the verdict as a basis for petitioning the NACC to suspend House Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont and Senate Speaker Nikom Wairatpanij. Both chamber leaders had wrongfully supervised the legislative debate, leading to the wrongful casting of votes for the bill, he said.

Nikom later said he did not know what to do next. He said meeting regulations should be changed to prevent a Senate speaker from violating them by complying with demands from parliament members to end a session.

Senator and petitioner Somchai Sawaengkarn said the verdict had shed light on the functioning of checks and balances in a democracy.

After the live broadcast of the verdict, anti-government protesters, who had camped out in front of the court building, shouted with glee. They later dismantled their rally site before moving on to join the main rally at Democracy Monument.

A red-shirt leader, Nuttawut Saikuar, declared onstage at Ratchamongkol Stadium that a new round in the fight had just begun, saying that it was now a face-off between “democratic forces and forces outside the system”. He called on red shirts nationwide to descend on Bangkok to fight, as they were ready to announce new measures to protect the elected Yingluck government.

Democrat MP Wirat Kalayasiri yesterday called for Yngluck’s resignation, for seeking royal approval despite doubts about the constitutionality of the bill. As per law, the prime minister is bound to send a bill approved by the House within 20 days for royal endorsement.

Regarding the possible impeachment of the 312 MPs and senators who had voted in favour of the charter amendment bill, he said Senator Tuang Untachai had already petitioned to activate impeachment proceedings. Tuang’s petition was submitted to the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

The Democrat MP said he expected the other two bills amending Articles 68 and 190 to also be rejected by the Constitutional Court.

Yellow-shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy lawyer Suwat Apaisak said the government was being defeated on all fronts. He added that lawmakers who voted for the bill would be targeted to face criminal proceedings related to lapse of duty as per Article 157 of the Criminal Code.

Former Democrat MP Suthep Thaungsuban, who is leading the anti-government rally, said the protest would continue and protest leaders would not pursue the impeachment of the 312 MPs and senators. “Resignation or House dissolution is not a guarantee that the Thaksin regime is over for good,” he added.

Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan expressed his strong opposition to the Constitution Court’s ruling. The Pheu Thai Party leader said he wondered how the upper house with elected members could be worse than a Senate with partially appointed members.

He said the court’s verdict would widen the growing rift among the people as one faction agreed with power of the people while the other faction supported the power of a few persons.

Asked how the government would respond, Charupong said there was no discussion yet but the government would take responsibility for the majority or 63 million people, instead of the opinions of only a few persons.

Verdict raises more questions
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The verdict of the Constitutional Court yesterday failed to restore political stability, as government supporters continued to ask if the court had the authority to review the case, while anti-government groups see it as a cue for more resistance.

The court yesterday struck down a charter amendment bill that calls for a fully elected Senate, saying the amendment would violate the principle of checks and balances, which is in violation of Article 68. To Pheu Thai Party’s relief, with no order to dissolve the party, the Yingluck Shinawatra government remains in power. However, the ruling has sparked calls for Yingluck to step down for seeking royal endorsement for an unconstitutional bill and for impeachment of the 312 MPs who endorsed the bill.

The Constitution Court judges voted 5-4 that the content of the amendment was unconstitutional. Also in a 6-3 vote they ruled that the amendment process was unconstitutional under various articles of the Constitution, including a glaring act caught on camera showing coalition MPs voting for the amendment using others’ identification cards. Sources said party dissolution was not recommended, as the judges believed the amendment was not meant to lead to insurrection or to unlawfully acquire administrative power. The judges said individual MPs or senators who voted in support of the amendment did not act in violation of Article 68.

However, the ruling was interpreted in different ways. Chulalongkorn University’s constitutional expert Pornsan Liangbunlertchai note

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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