MPs may defy court on charter bill and seek vote
Government figures believe Constitution Court has no power to order suspension of legislative processSome parliamentarians may suggest voting on the Constitution amendment bill during tomorrow's joint session of the two Houses even though the matter is not on the agenda, politicians from the ruling Pheu Thai Party said yesterday.
Meanwhile, the Constitution Court president denied interfering with the legislative branch when the court decided last week to accept for judicial review five petitions for it to rule on whether amending the Constitution to allow the writing of a new charter was unconstitutional.
Government chief whip Udomdej Rattanasathien, who is a Pheu Thai MP, said parliamentarians had the right to raise the matter or propose voting during the session.
"If it is suggested that Parliament should vote on the third reading, we should find out whether the regulations permit that," he said.
Certain government figures have said the court has no power to order suspension of the legislative process as critics have asked the House Speaker to suspend the voting until after a court verdict is made in the case.
Pheu Thai MP Pirapan Palusuk said that although the matter was not on the agenda of the joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives tomorrow, some participants might propose voting on the amendment bill.
"Someone may ask the session to vote to decide whether and when the vote on the third reading should take place," he said.
Pirapan, a member of the ruling party's legal team, said it was likely the Parliament president would inform the meeting of the Constitution Court order. He added that a debate was likely to follow as to whether Parliament should follow the court order and whether the court was empowered to make orders to Parliament.
"Pheu Thai MPs discussed the court order but there was no decision on whether we should go ahead with voting on the third reading," he said.
House of Representatives secretary-general Pitoon Pumhirun said the court had sent its order to him, and not the Parliament president or Parliament itself.
He said a committee set up to assist the Parliament president on what to do regarding this matter agreed that Parliament was able to go ahead with its session on the constitutional amendment bill and such a move could not be regarded as a failure to follow the court order.
Also yesterday, the Constitution Court held a news conference to deny allegations it was trespassing on the legislature in connection with the charter-change bill.
"The court has exercised every precaution not to interfere with the work of the legislature," said the court's president, Wasant Soypisut.
He said Article 68 of the Constitution empowered the court to check and rule whether there was an attempt to topple democratic rule with the King as head of state.
"The alternative is for the high court to lapse in its duty in upholding democratic rule," he said.
At issue was not the vote or other legislative work but the alleged conspiracy to overthrow the political system as sanctioned by the Constitution, he said.
Meanwhile, Kanit na Nakorn, chairman of the Truth for Reconcil-iation Committee of Thailand, expressed concern over the ongoing political situation, saying the confrontation could renew the conflict and lead to more violence.
He sent a three-page open letter to the prime minister, the opposition leader, the House Speaker (who is also the Parliament president ex officio), and the Senate Speaker. The letter called on the relevant parties to think of public interest rather than their personal benefit, for the sake of national reconciliation.
Yesterday morning, red-shirt supporters of the government began camping outside the Parliament compound to support the charter-change bill and to protest against the court decision.
In a related development, the yellow-shirt People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) called on all the parties involved to respect the court decision and wait patiently for the ruling in the case.
PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongpan said the group would take to the streets again if a new constitution to be written after the amendment would result in absolving former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his cohorts of their wrongdoings or undermining the power of the monarchy institution.