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CONSTITUTION CHANGE

Universities' input sought on rewrite

Ruling party seeks to ease public's concerns

The push to amend the Constitution appeared to face further delays yesterday, as the Pheu Thai Party unveiled a proposal to have universities study how best to change the charter.

Pheu Thai Party secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai said yesterday at a seminar in Khao Yai, Nakhon Ratchasima that the party realised that all methods of changing the charter - voting on a third reading of the charter change bill; amend the charter article by article; and holding a national referendum - faced opposition.

Phumtham said the party would ask the Law faculties at Chulalongkorn, Thammasat, Ramkhamhaeng and Sukhothai Thammathirat universities to find an answer on how best to proceed with amending the charter. The time frame for the studies could be on the order of 45-60 days.

"Finding a solution is urgent, but not too urgent. We'll continue to rewrite the charter but we want the academics to help spread the idea among the public or make them aware of the issue as much as they can," Phumtham said.

A party source said key party figures had agreed to delay Pheu Thai's push on two hot issues - charter amendment and the reconciliation bill - in order to maintain the government's stability for as long as possible. They agreed that the government and the party should "clear the landmines" instead of pushing hard on the two issues.

"We should wait for the right time to propose them again. We have to seek the public's opinion through a national referendum," the source said.

During the seminar, several Pheu Thai MPs expressed their opinions on charter change. Most of them, such as red-shirt leaders and party-list MPs Weng Tojirakarn, Jatuporn Phomphan and Korkaew Pikulthong, urged the ruling party to continue to vote on the charter amendment bill in the third reading. They all opposed a national referendum.

Deputy Commerce Minister Natthawut Saikua said the country is in trouble because of the independent bodies established under the current Constitution. The sovereignty of the country was supposed to divide into only three branches - administrative, legislative and judicial - but the independent constitutional organisation exercised power as if they were a fourth branch of government, he said.

The independent bodies, such as the Election Commission, the anti-graft commission and the Constitution Court, had toppled many governments including those of Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat, he said.

"If you want to destroy Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government, I will fight to the death to save it," he told the Pheu Thai Party seminar in Khao Yai yesterday.

Pheu Thai Party members should tell voters that constitutional amendment would not be done for any particular group or person but for the people, Natthawut said. The excessive power of some independent organisation means Parliament now cannot even vote on the third reading to pave the way for amendment, he said.

Yingluck urged members of the party to think positively in order to find the best solutions for the country. In 2006, the power that had belonged to the people was delivered into other hands, so as the party that comes from people, Pheu Thai must return power to them, she said.


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