Democrats say bill risks affronting His Majesty
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra faces the dilemma of whether to submit her government's charter change bill for royal endorsement after it clears the third and final reading in parliament today.
The Democrat Party says that by submitting the bill to the palace, Ms Yingluck may be guilty of acting inappropriately towards His Majesty the King, a serious criminal offence.
The bill is subject to several challenges in the Constitution Court amid claims the amendments are illegal.
Pheu Thai MPs, however, say the premier has no choice but to submit the bill to the palace, as Section 150 of the constitution requires it to be royally endorsed within 20 days of clearing parliament.
A joint parliamentary session of MPs and senators will take place today to vote on the third reading of the bill. Despite opposition from the Democrats, the bill is expected to easily pass given Pheu Thai's commanding majority.
Pheu Thai MP for Nonthaburi Apiwan Wiriyachai, who sits on the party's committee overseeing political strategy, said Ms Yingluck has no option but to submit the bill for royal endorsement since the constitution dictates that she must. The bill would become law only after it receives royal endorsement from His Majesty and is published in the Royal Gazette.
Mr Apiwan said Pheu Thai's legal team had studied the case carefully and concluded that the legislative procedure must proceed and the bill must be submitted for royal approval. The legal team believes the charter court has no authority to accept for consideration several petitions which cite Section 154 of the charter as a reason to halt the bill, he said.
The section stipulates that "any bill" which passes parliament must be submitted to the Constitution Court if more than one-tenth of MPs petition the parliament president, Senate president, or the House speaker that the bill breaches the constitution.
The Group of 40 Senators and Democrat MPs plan to enact Section 154 and petition the parliament president today.
Mr Apiwan, however, said the legal team believes Section 154 covers only general or organic bills, not charter change. But the opposition and the Group of 40 Senators insisted the "any bill" stipulated in the section also covers charter amendments.
Pheu Thai list-MP Phichit Chuenban, a member of the party's legal team, said charter amendment has proceeded lawfully and if the bill passes its third reading, the prime minister must submit it for royal endorsement.
He said even though the Constitution Court earlier accepted petitions against the charter change bill for consideration, the court had not ordered an injunction to suspend the third reading.
There was therefore no reason to stall the legislation, Mr Phichit said.
On Wednesday, the Constitution Court accepted two separate petitions filed against the charter amendment bill for consideration.
The petitions were filed by Senator Somjate Boonthanom and Democrat Party MP for Songkhla Wirat Kalayasiri. They asked the court to rule whether the bill violates Section 68 of the constitution, and to suspend its third reading today.
PM's Office secretary-general Suranand Vejjajiva said the prime minister cannot afford to violate the constitution. "If the prime minister fails to submit the bill, she will breach the charter," he said.
But Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday urged Ms Yingluck to think carefully before submitting the bill for royal endorsement. She should wait for a Constitution Court ruling on the matter within 20 days to avoid any legal complications that may ensue, he said.
Democrat MP for Songkhla Wirat Kalayasiri said Ms Yingluck should ask the parliament president to delay the third-reading vote on the bill until the charter court rules on its constitutionality.
Meanwhile, the Constitution Court yesterday voted to accept another two petitions filed against the charter amendment bill. They were lodged by Senator for Rayong Sai Kangkawekhin and Democrat list-MP Pirapan Salirathavibhaga.
Courtesy of Bangkok Post