The Nation



Referendum proposed on setting up people's council

UKRIT MONGKOLNAVIN, chairman of the Independent National Rule of Law Commission, yesterday proposed that Article 165 of the Constitution be invoked to hold a public referendum on the proposal to establish a people's council.

Ukrit raised the proposal during a discussion with House Speaker Somsak Kiartsuranon and Senate Speaker Nikom Wairatpanij at Parliament.

Ukrit said the referendum would end disputes between the People's Democratic Reform Committee and the government over the issue.

"Under the democratic system, the voice of the people is the most important. If we want a real solution, we should invoke Article 165 for all people to have a say. All 60 million Thais should be asked instead of having just 200,000 decide what should be done," Ukrit said.

Political science students from 14 universities yesterday called on the government and protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban to hold transparent talks to achieve a constitutional solution for the country.

The two-point proposal was submitted in the morning by 20 student representatives to Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana at Government House, who promised it would be considered by the government along with other proposals. The universities include Thammasat, Chulalongkorn, Kasetsart, Chiang Mai and Khon Kaen.

The student representatives told Phongthep political science students from the 14 universities came up with the proposal during a recent seminar. They called on the government and the Suthep-led People's Democratic Reform Committee to urgently and transparently negotiate a solution that is possible under the charter.

Their second proposal was that political reform should be carried out via charter amendments that provide a level playing field for all groups to express their opinions.

Phongthep replied that the government was gathering opinions on a solution and that the students' proposal would be considered along with other proposals put forward by academics.

He said he would later invite people with interesting ideas to discuss them. Permanent Secretary for Justice Kittipong Kityarak had been assigned to gather all the opinions and proposals, he added.

The deputy prime minister said the government would give its full attention to the opinions put forward as soon as possible.

But he said Suthep's proposal to seek a royally-granted prime minister, by invoking Article 7 of the charter, was impossible. It had been achieved in 1973, he said, because the charter at that time allowed it.

Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang said yesterday it was unconstitutional to invoke Article 3 and 7 to set up a people's council and seek to have a prime minister appointed by His Majesty. He said Article 291 needed to be amended first to make Suthep's proposals possible.

"But someone must sponsor this charter amendment bill. The protesters are refusing to propose a charter amendment bill and instead are resorting to intimidating and creating turmoil," Chaturon said.

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