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The Constitutional Amendment and the Constitutional Court

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The Constitution Court will decide today, whether to stall the government’s charter amendment on the structure of the Senate from being submitted for royal endorsement after Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had signed her approval on Tuesday. Prime Minister Office’s secretary-general Suranand Vejjajiva said the bill is now ready to be submitted to the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary before it can be forward to His Majesty for royal approval.

Mr. Suranand said the Council of State and the government’s legal adviser have made it clear that the charter change process was lawful and the prime minister is required by the charter to submit it for royal endorsement within 20 days of its passage.

The bill seeks to amend the constitution’s regulations on the composition of the Senate and is aimed at authorising the election of all 200 senators while allowing them to run for consecutive terms. The bill cleared its third and final reading in parliament on Saturday but it is still subject to several legal challenges by the Constitutional Court due a petition from senators and Democrat MPs which claim that the amendments contravene the constitution.

A petition against the bill was filed by senators Somjate Boonthanom and Rosana Tositrakul who asked the court to issue an injunction against the government’s decision to submit the bill for royal endorsement. They claimed that the charter changes represent an attempt to overthrow the current democratic system and therefore it violates Article 68 of the charter.

Another group of 40 Senators and Democrat MPs on Saturday also submitted a petition opposing the bill to Senate Speaker Nikom Wairatpanich by citing Article 154 of the charter. They insisted that Ms Yingluck must delay forwarding the bill to His Majesty until the charter court rules on its constitutionality or else she will be at risk of breaking the law.

In the meantime, Dr. Weng Tojilakarn, Pheu Thai MP and co-leader of the United front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), have voiced his support for the government’s decision to submit the amendment bill for a royal endorsement because it is in accord with the supreme law, not against it as the opposition claimed.

Article 291 in Chapter 15 of the constitution which dictate the amendment process of the constitution state that “after the resolution (amendment bill) has been passed in accordance with the above mentioned (article 1-6), the draft Constitution Amendment shall be presented to the King, and the provisions of Article 150 and Article 151 shall apply, mutatis mutandis (changing [only] those things which need to be changed)”. While Article 150 state that “after a bill has already been approved by the National Assembly, the Prime Minister shall present it to the King for signature within twenty days as from the date of the receipt of such bill from the National Assembly, and it shall come into force after publication in the Government Gazette has been carried out.” According to these articles (291 and 150) the Prime Minister has no choice but to summit the drafted bill for royal endorsement within 20 days or else she will be in risk of violating the constitution,” said Dr. Weng.

“The call from the opposition for the Prime Minister to delay the forwarding process of the bill until the Constitutional Court rules on its is not supported by any article of the constitution and the charter court itself cannot issue such order because the court have to also abide by the supreme law of the country,” Dr. Weng added.

Assoc. Prof. Tida Tavonseth, commented that “It is certain, because of personal reasons and as president of the UDD, that the government have my support for its decision to submit the amendment bill for a royal endorsement because it is in accord with the constitution and because principally, it was a right thing to do for the right reasons. This action of the lawmakers and executive branch is legitimate therefore the members of parliament and the Prime Minister have to do their duty which is to fulfil the promises that they have made to the people,” said the President of the UDD.

P.S. – Today – Wednesday 2nd October 2013 – at 16:14pm – While in the process of publishing this article, the Constitutional Court have already dismissed the petition of senators Somjate Boonthanom, Rosana Tositrakul, and a group of 40 senators which claimed that the government’s charter amendment bill is in violation of Article 68. The court cited that they have ruled against a similar petition on the 25th of September 2013 from a group Democrats MPs and they do not deem that it is necessary to restrict the government from summiting the amendment bill for a royal endorsement.

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