Six senators withdraw support for charter amendment bills
Six senators have withdrawn their names supporting three bills for Constitution amendment submitted to Parliament on Wednesday.Some said the content of the amendment in the submitted bills had been changed after Pheu Thai MPs discussed the bill with the senators, asking for their support.
Their decision, however, will not affect the move to push for charter amendment. The three amendment bills have been co-sponsored by coalition MPs and many senators, including some appointed senators. Among 248 signatures supporting three separate bills submitted on Wednesday, 50-60 signatures came from senators.
The law requires one-fifth of the total MPs (100) or total parliamentarians (130 MPs and senators) to propose charter change.
Senator Nirand Praditkul said yesterday that he and five other senators had withdrawn their names from backing the amendment bills.
The five other senators are Mahannop Dejwithak, Jarupong Jinaphan, Jongrak Chuthanon, Wirat Phanitpong and Khachorn Saiwat.
Nirand said when he and other senators signed their names in support of the amendments, they were told that only three Articles would be amended without mentioning Article 68. Nirand said he and the other senators disagreed with the amendment of Article 68 because it would restrict the people's right to seek rulings from the Constitution Court.
Meanwhile, Senate Speaker Nikom Waiyaratphanich yesterday expressed support for Pheu Thai's three bills seeking to amend four provisions of the charter, expecting them to sail through Parliament.
Nikom said the proposed amendments would be useful for the country and would not be done to benefit a particular group of people as alleged by the so-called clique of 40 senators. He added that the proposed amendment to Article 190 would make Thailand more competitive in the world market, while the proposed amendment to Article 237 to abolish party dissolution penalty would promote the development of political parties.
The proposed amendment to Article 237 seeks to grant exemption from parliamentary vetting for international agreements deemed to impact economic, social and security affairs. Nikom said the proposed amendment to require all senators to come through the election process would allow the people to elect their senators.
He said he backed charter amendments not because he wanted to help particular political parties or because he had received an order from former PM Thaksin Shinawatra.
He said he supported the four provision amendments because Nonthaburi Senator Direk Thuengfung, who chaired a reconciliation panel, had proposed similar amendments.
The speaker admitted that amendment of the party dissolution provision would benefit the former 109 executives of three disbanded political parties if the amendments are done fast. But Nikom said the amendments would not be done before December, after which the 109 executives would come out of their five-year political ban.
"So, the amendments will not benefit any particular group," he said. He added that he also supported the amendment to Article 68 that seeks to ban individuals from having direct access to the Constitution Court to initiate litigation for disbanding a party.
Nikom said the amendment would not limit the rights of individuals but would simply set guidelines on how to seek rulings of the Constitution Court. He said he did not think the Office of the Attorney-General would be dominated by politicians in power.
Nikom also reprimanded the group-of-40, who had come out to oppose the three amendment bills. He said they used to be members of the post-coup National Legislative Assembly before they were appointed senators. All in all, the 40 senators would have been in office for 11 years. "Now, when the people will have the right to elect senators, they are afraid of their future," he said.
Nikom said yesterday that senators were senior people who should not have been fooled. Those who gave their names in support of charter amendments only to withdraw their names later, then "should go to hell".
Opposition and Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the Democrats would check the three bills thoroughly before the party makes its stand.
He added that he had preliminarily seen that the amendments would limit the people's rights and these amendments might be unconstitutional.