iLaw, the legal watchdog NGO and its allies, has led a march to parliament to submit their amendments to the constitution, 1 day before the parliament holds a debate on 2 amendment bills one from the government and one from the opposition, on 23-24 September.
(Right) Jon Ungphakorn, the director of iLaw submitting the amendment petition with the signatures to the secretary of the House Speaker.
The iLaw version was submitted on 22 September in line with Section 256 of the 2017 constitution that empowers 50,000 people to submit an amendment to the constitution. Due to the pro-democracy wave, it surprisingly took only 43 days to gather double the required number.
iLaw’s version has 10 parts, amending various sections of the 2017 constitution. It mainly aims to abolish the legacy and political leverage of the junta who staged the 2014 coup. The draft abolishes the appointed senate and its powers, the 20-year national strategy, and parliament’s ability to nominate an unelected person to become Prime Minister.
It also removes the immunity of the coup-makers’ past orders and actions protected under Section 279, and unelected local administrations, and revises of the selection process for independent government agencies.
iLaw also does not exempt from amendment Chapters 1 and 2 which deal with general principle governing the country and the king. It also stresses that the constitution drafting assembly must be entirely elected with the country as one constituency.
Chuan Leekphai told the media that the iLaw draft may not make its way into the parliament debate on 23-24 September as parliament staff need time to check the hundreds of thousands petition documents.
Yingcheep Atchanont, the manager of iLaw, gave a speech in front of parliament. He thanked the 100,732 people who signed the amendment and those who supported iLaw along the way. He demanded that the draft be submitted for parliamentary debate in this session, which will end after the 24 September meeting.
Yingcheep said that the draft they were submitting contains proposals that no political party has made, including the removal of the appointed senate and its powers, no outsider PM, and calls for the senate-appointed Constitutional Court, National Anti-Corruption Commission, Ombudsman, and National Human Rights Commission to be disbanded and re-elected without any interference from appointed bodies.
Amendments may be proposed either from the cabinet, not less than one-fifth of the total existing members of the House of Representatives, not less than one-fifth of MPs and Senators of both houses, or 50,000 people who have the right to vote.
The march went 2.2 km, starting from Tao Poon subway station. Around 10 uniformed police officers were present. Around 500 people joined the march with some passers-by and bystanders giving support by raising 3-finger salutes, an anti-dictatorship gesture inspired by the Hunger Games film.
The petitions were submitted to Somboon Uthaiwiankul, secretary of the House Speaker, Sutin Klungsang, chief opposition whip, and Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the Move Forward Party.
After the petition was submitted, Netnapha Amnatsongsoem of the Free People Movement read a declaration that parliament must respond to the people's proposal for constitutional amendment.
“The mechanisms of the 2017 constitution such as 250 senators appointed by the NCPO, possibility of an unelected PM, and the co-optation of accountability organizations to the point where they have lost credibility, all have come about to prolong the power of the NCPO and ensure that the current balance of political power does not truly reflect the people’s will.
“Although MPs from many political parties will propose approaches to amending the constitution by using the rights of MPs, they lack amendments to the important issues mentioned above, especially the proposal from the government parties which plans to co-opt the constitution drafting committee to work as the parties themselves wish. So such proposals as exist are not enough to correct the abnormalities in the present political regime,” the declaration states."
As of now, 2 proposals have been submitted to parliament.
- Opposition coalition led by Pheu Thai Party
- The establishment of a constitution drafting assembly, whose members, consist of 200, will be entirely elected with each province as a constituency, by an amendment of Section 256.
- Cancellation of Sections 270 -272 relating to senators’ powers in national reform plans, amendment of penalties in corruption cases committed by officials and voting for the PM
- Cancellation of Section 279 relating to legitimizing actions and orders of the NCPO in the past.
- Cancellation of Sections 83, 85, 88, 90, 91 and 94 relating to the electoral system in favour of one that allows 2 ballots (for constituency and party-list) as in the 1997 constitution.
- Government coalition
- The Senate left untouched, although a few members of the Democrat Party want to limit the Senate’s powers.
- A drafting committee consisting of 200 members; 150 elected and the other 50 appointed from among legal experts, academic experts, political experts and students.