Charter changes referendum has MFP concerned about government’s procrastination

Picture courtesy of Bangkok Post

The potential referendum concerning changes to the charter sparked concerns as the Move Forward Party (MFP) suggests the government is procrastinating. Deputy Prime Minister Phumtham Wechayachai tasked with forming a panel to study the referendum plans, stated that discussions about the referendum’s necessity are still ongoing. This announcement came after the Cabinet’s first meeting this week.

The focus of the Cabinet’s first meeting was on pressing policies, including the need to democratise the existing charter, seen by many as a legacy of the 2014 coup. Commerce Minister Phumtham, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, has been approached by numerous academics and interest groups willing to assist with the charter’s overhaul.

However, their stances on what needs to be amended vastly differ, he said.

Phumtham further explained that the government aims to avoid legal and technical hindrances that previously held back the charter amendment efforts. This comment was about the charter amendment attempts by various parties, halted after the Constitutional Court ruled a referendum was needed to decide on the constitution’s rewrite.

In response to the government’s plan to establish a referendum study panel, MFP list MP Parit Wacharasindhu suggested it is merely a time-buying tactic. He reminded of the pledge made by the ruling Pheu Thai Party on August 2 to hold a referendum on the charter amendment, which also promised public participation in the creation of the charter-redrafting assembly.

The study panel will be formed by a prime ministerial order, not by a Cabinet resolution, which demands stronger legal compliance, Parit said.

The constitutional amendment’s journey has faced numerous challenges in Parliament. In February 2021, both houses agreed that charter-redrafting assembly members should all be elected. This agreement was reached during the bill’s second reading on amending the charter in Parliament.

However, the bill was voted down in the third and final reading by some parties and senators, citing the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the referendum.

In an attempt to revive the amendment, the MFP and Pheu Thai, both opposition parties at the time, jointly proposed to invoke the Referendum Act to initiate the charter amendment drive. This motion was dismissed by the Senate in February.

Parit argued that the Cabinet has the authority to implement the Referendum Act, bypassing the Senate and commencing the push for a constitutional amendment. He criticised the government’s decision to establish a referendum study panel, branding it an unnecessary process, Bangkok Post reported.

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Atima Homtientong

Atima is a dedicated news writer living in Bangkok. With a degree from Mahidol University, she focuses on reporting key issues and happenings around the country. In her off time, Atima enjoys writing and producing music.