Pheu Thai leaders push radical charter overhaul
Chalerm denies trying to help exiled Thaksin
The Pheu Thai Party's leading members are pushing for new proposals to amend the constitution that could spark fresh controversy.
A call to abolish the Constitution and Administrative courts is particularly likely to anger opponents.
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung said Tuesday that his proposed amendments to the 2007 constitution cover five points.
They comprise a requirement for all senators to be elected, the abolition of the Ombudsman, the merger of the Constitution and Administrative courts to place them under the Supreme Court, a curb on the Election Commission's authority to give yellow or red cards to election candidates, and a requirement for National Anti-Corruption Commission and EC members to be selected.
Mr Chalerm insisted his proposals reflected only a personal opinion and were not aimed at helping exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
He said amending the constitution to create a charter drafting assembly to write a whole new charter is a lengthy process as it must involve holding a referendum for the public to decide if they want a new one.
Mr Chalerm reiterated his view that charter amendments section by section would best benefit the country.
Pheu Thai list-MP Wattana Muangsuk has also proposed seven issues for amending the charter. He said a balance of power must be established among the judicial, executive and legislative branches. He said the power of the judiciary does not come under scrutiny.
Section 67 of the constitution puts the benefits of local communities and bodies above the management of wider public interests by central government, Mr Wattana said. The government finds it hard to carry out projects without approval by local bodies.
He said Section 190, which requires all international treaties and agreements to be endorsed by parliament, must be amended.
Section 237, which deals with political party dissolution and banning party executives from politics for five years, should also be changed.
The selection of members of independent bodies must be transparent and accountable. Mechanisms must be put in place to scrutinise the exercise of their power.
If senators are only in charge of screening legislation, they do not need to be elected, Mr Wattana said. But if they are empowered to impeach anyone, they must be elected.
Section 309, which insulates the 2006 coup makers from prosecution and legitimises their actions, must be erased as the section contradicts Section 3, which upholds the rule of law, he said.
The coup was never legitimate and Section 309 only protects what is wrong, Mr Wattana added.
Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Nattawut Saikuar stressed the need for the government to wait for the Constitution Court to issue its formal verdict on the charter amendment case in writing before acting.
Mr Nattawut, also a red shirt co-leader, said the present constitution results from the 2006 coup that toppled the Thaksin administration. It is the source of all the political problems and poses obstacles to the government, he said.
Thaksin let it be known in Hong Kong last week that he wanted the government to focus on amending the constitution section by section, as this method is seen as the best way to negotiate the hurdles facing its bid.
Mr Nattawut said the government could not overlook the fact that certain elements were attempting to overthrow the government by using the charter rewrite issue.
Chief government whip Udomdej Rattanasathien said government whips would meet on July 30 and coalition parties would meet on July 31.
They will discuss issues on the agenda for deliberation when parliament reconvenes next month. They include the four reconciliation bills and the charter amendment bill.
Pheu Thai list-MP Korkaew Pikulthong said the party's senior figures had agreed the charter should be amended section by section, with changes to only important issues, which would be a quicker process. Proposed amendments would cover the scope of the judiciary's power, party dissolution and banishment of party executives, and Section 309, among other things.
However, Pheu Thai MP for Chiang Rai Samart Kaewmeechai said a Pheu Thai committee overseeing political strategy Tuesday insisted on amending Section 291 to establish a charter rewrite assembly to draw up a new charter.
Pursuing a new constitution to replace the 2007 coup-sponsored one was pledged during the ruling party's 2011 election campaign. This was also part of the policy statement that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra read out before parliament _ a constitutional precondition for legalising the government's administrative powers.
But the government will wait for the full text of the charter court's formal verdict on the amendment case, Mr Samart said, adding it was now impossible to go ahead with the third reading of the bill pending deliberation in parliament. Doing so would only invite fresh petitions against the charter amendment effort.
Meanwhile, His Majesty the King has endorsed a royal decree authorising the opening of parliament on Aug 1.
By Patsara Jikkham, Aekarach Sattaburuth & Amornrat Mahitthirook
25 July 2012