UPDATE: See below
Last Friday, the Constitution Court accepted a petition to review amendments to the constitution on the grounds that the amendments have (or will?) breach Section 68 of the Constitution which provides that “No person shall exercise the rights and liberties prescribed in the Constitution to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State under this Constitution”. There has been widespread criticism of the court by legal experts – BP has summarised some of the criticisms here. BP has blogged on the defence of the Constitution Court provided by noted Thaksin opponent, Kaewsan.
On Wednesday, the Constitution Court came out to defend their decision. The Bangkok Post:
The Constitution Court on Wednesday reaffirmed it has not overstepped its authority in accepting petitions against the charter amendment bill and in ordering parliament to temporarily suspend the third reading of the controversial legislation
Vocal criticism of its injunction by the government’s supporters prompted the court to call a press conference today, at which all the court’s judges were present, to explain its decision.
Court spokesman Pimol Thampithakpong cited Sections
60[BP: Not Section 60, see below] and 69 of the constitution to support the court’s acceptance of the petitions for examination.
Court president Wasan Soypisuth said the court had only accepted the petitions for examination. A month’s delay in the deliberation of the bill would not cause any damage, he said.
On the claims the court might have acted beyond its authority, Mr Wasan said the entire bench of judges were well aware they cannot do anything more than is allowed by the constitution.
The 2007 Constitution:
Section 60. A person shall have the right to sue a government agency, State agency, State enterprise, local government organisation or other State authority which is a juristic person to be liable for an act or omission done by its government official, official or employee.
Section 69. A person shall have the right to resist peacefully an act committed for the acquisition of the power to rule the country by a means which is not in accordance with the modes provided in this Constitution.
Parliament is a government agency or State Authority which is a juristic person mentioned in Section 60? MPs are government officials? No.? Officials? No. Employees? No. Sue at the Constitution Court?
[UPDATE: Ignore that reference to Section 60. Another Bangkok Post article says the Court spokesman said Section 70 (which would at least make sense):
Mr Pimol said the court judges also took into account sections 69 and 70 of the constitution.
Section 70 says every person has a duty to protect and uphold the country, religions, the King and the democratic regime of government with the King as head of state under the charter.]
For Section 69, well an act has been committed? Or they suspect an act?
The Nation has more:
The court has exercised every precaution not to interfere with the work of the legislature,” said the court’s president, Wasant Soypisut.
He said Article 68 of the Constitution empowered the court to check and rule whether there was an attempt to topple democratic rule with the King as head of state.
“The alternative is for the high court to lapse in its duty in upholding democratic rule,” he said.
At issue was not the vote or other legislative work but the alleged conspiracy to overthrow the political system as sanctioned by the Constitution, he said.
BP: Should the Court now consider every alleged conspiracy? This is why you are meant to have the Attorney-General to investigate the claims first.
However, neither The Nation nor the Bangkok Post included another part of Wasant’s answer which was a doozy. Matichon quotes Wassan as stating that in relation to interpreting Section 68, please look at the English translation of the Constitution that clearly specifies that for the motion states that the person who knows this and not just the Attorney-General (เรื่องการตีความมาตรา 68 นั้น ขอให้ไปดูรัฐธรรมนูญฉบับที่แปลเป็นภาษาอังกฤษ จะชัดเจนว่าการยื่นคำร้อง เป็นเรื่องของผู้ทราบ ไม่ใช่เรื่องของอัยการสูงสุด (อสส.) เพียงอย่างเดียว)
BP: As already explained, in the in Thai original or English translation, Section 68 states “and”, but the Court interprets this as “and/or”. This is the same in English or in Thai. How has this changed the meaning?
btw, The Nation has an article quoting 4 legal experts