THE NATIONAL Legislative Assembly (NLA) passed an amendment to the 2014 Interim Charter yesterday in three consecutive readings that will allow the King discretion on the designation of a regent in the event of his absence from the country, or if he is incapable of performing his duties.
The move will also allow the prime minister to reacquire the draft charter, approved in the August 7 referendum, from the King – and amend it to the same effect.
The amendment was tabled by the Cabinet and National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). It will enable the prime minister to reacquire the draft charter from the King and alter some content in regard to the monarch’s power, as suggested by the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary.
Representing the two ruling bodies, Deputy Premier Wissanu Krea-ngam said in yesterday’s session that writing of the new charter had followed due process of law until it was submitted to the King for royal endorsement. The Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary had observed there were some points the government should reconsider, he said.
The government, together with the NCPO, reconsidered the observation and agreed that the revision of the charter draft should be made now and not after it is promulgated.
“If we wait until the constitution is promulgated – although the amendment was still viable legally – there would be difficulties as by that time it would already be a law,” Wissanu said. “In order to amend some chapters and clauses as such, it would need to be endorsed by the people in another referendum,” he explained.
It would have been a long-term obligation that was time-consuming and would have affected many other issues. But if the amendment was done at this time and re-submitted for royal endorsement, it would be better and more appropriate and would not cause difficulty, Wissanu said.
The Deputy Prime Minister said the government and NCPO considered the proposal to amend the Interim Charter to allow the draft charter to be altered at this time was right and lawful. It was still being reviewed by the King, which enabled the process to occur, he said.
He stressed that the change would only be as suggested by the Office of HM’s Principal Private Secretary. No other points would be adjusted as the draft constitution had already passed a national referendum.
Besides the new stipulation in regard to the King’s discretion on the designation of a regent by preference, Wissanu also proposed clauses to disallow the adoption of Section 18, 19, and 20 of the 2007 Constitution.
The three sections stipulate that the King should name a regent when outside the Kingdom or unable to perform royal duties. If this does not occur, the Privy Council will propose a regent with the Parliament to endorse that, or the President of the Privy Council would become a Regent pro tempore during the King’s absence.
The amendment also addressed in the new Section 4, Wissanu’s proposed adjustment to stipulations upon the King’s observations on the referendum-approved charter, with an addition that this can also be done for related matters other than what he has observed and advised on.
After nearly three hours of deliberation, the amendment of the Interim Constitution of 2014 passed the NLA with 228 votes in favour and three abstentions. It will now be forwarded for the Cabinet to seek royal endorsement.
Meanwhile, chief charter drafter Meechai Ruchupan, who also sits on the Council of State’s special panel to amend the constitution draft, said that the panel would not start working officially until the government submits the amendment to it.
The change would strictly follow the Interim Constitution of 2014 that was amended yesterday, he said.
Meechai declined to comment on speculation that the charter change would delay the election to 2019, but said the regime’s road map remained unchanged and it would not begin until the constitution was enacted.
He said the Constitution Drafting Commission would only exist until its task of writing 10 organic law was completed under that timetable.