Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has downplayed concerns that changing the Constitution will cause turmoil, saying efforts will be made in the coming year to engage the public to reach a consensus ahead of the actual rewriting.
Yingluck argues that the new charter will not be ready for enactment within a year as has been speculated and that charter amendments are not being designed to grant amnesty to her brother, fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
“At this juncture, the government-appointed working group is conducting a review before recommending a best option on how to amend the charter,” she said.
One of the options is to hold a referendum vote before activating the charter rewriting process, she said. Should this option be chosen, the working group will outline how the vote should be organised.
Other options include bypassing the referendum and just amending provision by provision in lieu of an overhaul of the whole Constitution. If the referendum is bypassed, Parliament would cast the final vote on the charter amendment bill to pave the way for formation of a charter drafting assembly.
The prime minister said her government wants to promulgate a people’s charter to replace the one overseen by coup-makers.
She claimed that critics should not draw a hasty conclusion about an ulterior motive to rescue Thaksin from his legal predicament because no one in the government or the opposition could wield influence over charter writers, elected to form the CDA.
“I call on all sides to think hard about the end result – what the people will gain from the new charter – rather than bickering about the process of rewriting.”
She voiced optimism that the country would eventually push through an improved charter after overcoming differences over the rewriting format.
While conceding that Thaksin had his ideas on the matter, she said her government would finalise its decision after factoring in the opinions of all sides.
The charter amendments might take years to complete and next year would be just the beginning of change, she said.
Senate Speaker Nikom Wairatpanij said he expected the government to choose the least controversial option to push for charter change.
Nikom said the Senate would be willing to support the option that leads to social peace, reminding the government that senators would not condone any bullying tactics.
The holding of a referendum might be risky but to compensate, the authorities could step up an awareness campaign to sway public sentiment, he said, adding that this may be the only way to reconcile differences over a charter rewrite.
Democrat MP Ong-art Klampai-boon said the main opposition party would closely monitor government efforts to amend the charter. He said he had doubts that the government could build a consensus on the planned charter amendments.