Thailand’s Amnesty Bill and the procedural hurdles ahead : Redux
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Thailand’s Amnesty Bill and the procedural hurdles ahead : Redux

Ok, the Amnesty Bill has passed the House, what now? A long-time reader has asked BP to expand on the initial post.

BP: The relevance of the below is that assuming there is some deal between Thaksin and the Establishment over the Amnesty Bill then everything should flow smoothly so the below is a more expanded version of where problems can arise, which can can give an indication on what influence other players in Thai society have on the Bill.

The Bill is going to the Senate now. According to Nation Channel, the Senate will start the first reading between November 8-11. According to Section 146, the Senate has up to 60 days  to finish consideration of the Amnesty Bill. The Senate rules and regulations are here and by BP’s reading after the 2nd reading in the Senate there has to be a Committee to review the Bill (unsure how long they can review it considering we have 60 days in total and whether this can be overridden by say a super-majority)

BP: There are three  possibilities for the Senate as per Section 147:

(1) if it [Senate] agrees with the House of Representatives, further proceedings under section 150 [see below] shall be taken;

(2) if it disagrees with the House of Representatives, such bill shall be withheld and returned to the House of Representatives;

(3) if there is an amendment, the amended bill shall be returned to the House of Representatives. If the House of Representatives approves such amendment, further proceedings under section 150 shall be taken. In other cases, each House shall appoint persons, being or not being its members, in such an equal number as may be fixed by the House of Representatives, to constitute a joint committee for considering the bill and the joint committee shall prepare a report thereon and submit the bill which it has already considered to both Houses. If both Houses approve the bill already considered by the joint committee, further proceedings under section 150 shall be taken. If either House disapproves it, the bill shall be withheld.

BP: For now, let’s assume the Senate agrees so we follow Section 147(1) which means we need to look at Section 150.  Section 150 below is on the PM presenting the Bill to HM the King:

The Prime Minister shall present the bill approved by the National Assembly to the King for His signature within twenty days as from the date of receiving such bill from the National Assembly and the bill shall come into force as an Act upon its publication in the Government Gazette.

However, after the Bill passes the Senate, opposition MPs and Senate can invoke Section 154 which states:

[a] After any bill has been approved by the National Assembly under section 150 or has been reaffirmed by the National Assembly under section 151, before the Prime Minister presents it to the King for signature:

(1) if members of the House of Representatives, senators or members of both Houses of not less than one-tenth of the total number of the existing members of both Houses are of the opinion that provisions of the said bill are contrary to or inconsistent with this Constitution or such bill is enacted contrary to the provisions of this Constitution, they shall submit their opinion to the President of the House of Representatives, the President of the Senate or the President of the National Assembly, as the case may be, and [b] the President of the House receiving such opinion shall then refer it to the Constitutional Court for decision and, without delay, inform the Prime Minister thereof;

(2) if the Prime Minister is of the opinion that the provisions of the said bill are contrary to or inconsistent with this Constitution or it is enacted contrary to the provisions of this Constitution, the Prime Minister shall refer such opinion to the Constitutional Court for decision and, without delay, inform the President of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate thereof.

[c] During the consideration of the Constitutional Court, the Prime Minister shall suspend the proceedings in respect of the promulgation of the bill until the Constitutional Court gives a decision thereon.

If the Constitutional Court decides that the provisions of such bill are contrary to or inconsistent with this Constitution or it is enacted contrary to the provisions of this Constitution and that such provisions of the bill form the essential element thereof, such bill shall lapse.

[d] If the Constitutional Court decides that the provisions of such bill are contrary to or inconsistent with this Constitution otherwise than in the case specified in paragraph three, such conflicting or inconsistent provisions shall lapse and the Prime Minister shall proceed further in accordance with section 150 or section 151, as the case may be.

BP: Can we just assume that Yingluck is not going to take a position on the constitutionality so (2) is out of the picture and it is only (1). For [a], BP views that the Democrats and Senators opposed to the Amnesty Bill can easily muster the 65 votes (10% of around 480 MPs and 140 odd Senators would be 65)  under (1) to submit it to President of the House.

For [b], the wording of this subsection doesn’t give any leeway for the President of the House to do anything but to submit it to the Constitution Court (if the President didn’t well expect a Constitutional Court challenge on that) and inform the PM.

Then per [c], we need to await the Constitution Court decision and until the Court issues its decision, the Bill is on hold i.e it cannot be submitted to HM the King. There is no time frame specified in the Constitution and BP is not aware of any internal court procedures on the timing, but would be surprised if Court regulations required the Court act quickly. This doesn’t mean the Court would drag it out, but am more referring to required time limits. Although, if the Court dragged it out for a very long time, it would make you wonder whether about any deal (although it could just be going through the motions to show it was thorough). Then again if the Court issued an unusually quick decision then we know the “fix” is on….

Then assuming the Court does not find the essential elements of the Bill contrary to the Constitution, we are at [d] so this means  we are back to Section 150 (as per above) and the PM has 20 days to present to HM the King. Section 151 states:

If the King refuses His assent to a bill and either returns it to the National Assembly or does not return it within ninety days, the National Assembly must reconsider such bill. If the National Assembly resolves to reaffirm the bill with the votes of not less than two-thirds of the total number of existing members of both Houses, the Prime Minister shall present such bill to the King for signature once again. If the King does not sign and return the bill within thirty days, the Prime Minister shall cause the bill to be promulgated as an Act in the Government Gazette as if the King had signed it.

BP: So we have 90 days here. If HM the King does not assent within the 90 days then well all political bets are off on what could happen next.

As noted in the previous post, the law is not likely to be in force very quickly.