Thai charter change panel to meet Friday amid obstruction fears

Thai charter change panel to meet Friday amid obstruction fears

Thai charter change panel to meet Friday amid obstruction fears
A red traffic light is seen in front of Democracy Monument with a replica of the constitution on its top on Ratchadamnoen Road. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The government panel studying a referendum on a constitutional amendment will meet on Friday to address potential issues, which include the double-majority requirement that many fear could derail the vote.

Deputy Prime Minister Phumtham Wechayachai, who heads the government committee, said on Monday it will meet on Friday to discuss input from the sub-committee gauging public opinion on a referendum led by Nikorn Chamnong.

Further details regarding the referendum will be made clear at the meeting, including which parts of the constitution will be amended, how many referendums will be needed, and how much budget will be forked out to organise the public votes, he said.

The deputy premier declined to speculate on the outcome of the upcoming meeting.

However, he said he was confident that the details would be finalised before the year was out and forwarded to the cabinet for consideration in the first quarter of next year.

“I’m hoping we can wrap it up by January next year,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Nikorn admitted he was concerned by the effect the Referendum Act might have on the amendment process — specifically, Section 13, which requires that two specific conditions be met before the result of a referendum can be considered binding.

First, that over 50% of citizens eligible must have voted and that a majority of those who cast votes must approve it.

He said the double-majority will be difficult to achieve.

Mr Nikorn explained under a simple majority rule, at least 26 million eligible voters must cast their votes for the result of the referendum to be considered binding.

With a double-majority requirement, at least 13 million must have voted to approve the amendment itself for the result to be legally binding.

“This is quite worrisome,” he said.

Mr Nikorn said he would raise his concerns about these requirements at the meeting.

Meanwhile, Pongsathorn Sornpetnarin, a Rayong MP with the main opposition Move Forward Party, also said he agreed that Section 13 of the Referendum Act needs fixing.

The requirement is simply too difficult to put into practice, and if a campaign were launched to keep at least 50% of voters away, the referendum would be doomed, he said.

Mr Pongsathorn, who is deputy chairman of the House committee on political development and public participation, added that 25% should be enough to approve the amendment.