The parliament vote intercepts constitutional amendment

On 9 February, the upper and lower houses of parliament together voted 366-316 to petition the Constitutional Court over the constitutionality of the constitutional amendment bill, casting aside the regular amendment process.

The Democracy Monument, one of Thailand's constitutionality symbol blocked by fences with a banner stating "Do not enter prior  approval. Under maintenance,".

According to the Bangkok Post, the vote was taken after a 4-hour long debate on the motion by Paiboon Nititawan, a deputy leader of the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) and Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn.

The 366 votes in favour of seeking the court ruling came from 230 Senators, 113 PPRP MPs, 1 Democrat MP, 5 Thai Local Power Party MPs, 5 Action Coalition for Thailand MPs, 2 Thai Forest Conservation Party MPs, 1 New Economics MP and 9 MPs from other small coalition parties. 

The 316 no votes came mostly from opposition parties including 124 Pheu Thai MPs, 51 Move Forward MPs, 9 Seri Ruam Thai MPs, 5 Prachachart MPs, 5 Puea Chart MPs, and 1 MP each from New Economics and Palang Puangchon Thai. MPs from other government coalition parties, including 60 from Bhumjaithai, 47 from the Democrats, 12 from Chartthaipattana and 1 from Thai Civilized, also voted no.

Somchai and Paiboon claimed that by petitioning the court, the constitutionality of the amendment will be confirmed. The amendment outlines a methodology and the establishment of a Constitution Drafting Assembly consisting of 200 elected members from provincial constituencies.

According to Matichon, the Pheu Thai Party criticized that the motion as the third attempt to delay the amendment process following the establishment of a committee to study constitutional amendments and a committee to study the draft amendment before the first reading.

Despite the agreement within the committees consisting of government coalition MPs and senators, they still chose to further delaying the wishes of the people.

Had the motion not been passed, the amendment process would have normally proceeded to the second reading, where the draft will be considered section by section before voting to pass with a majority vote.

There is then an interval of 15 days before the third reading. The third reading requires votes of more than half from both houses, i.e. not less than 375 votes including 84 votes from the Senate, and 20% of the MPs from each party other than President of Parliament, Deputy Presidents or Ministers. 

After the bill has passed the 3rd reading, there will be an interval of 15 days before the PM presents the draft to the King for his signature. 

Parliament voted on 7 draft amendments on 18 November 2020. Only 2 passed the first reading, including the one from the government coalition, with little detail about the amendment methodology, seen as the least common denominator among all parties. It does not touch upon key elements of the power structure devised by the military coup-makers, such as the junta-appointed senate or the independent organizations.

A constitution amendment petition signed by around 100,000 voters, which was designed to abolish much of the junta’s legacy in the 2017 Constitution, did not receive enough votes from MPs and Senators to get past the first reading.

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