How will Thailand’s interim Constitution be amended?
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How will Thailand’s interim Constitution be amended?

ON Tuesday, Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha revealed that the office of the new king has asked for changes to the draft Constitution.

The government reportedly agreed to the request and, according to The Nation, Prayuth said the draft would be returned for amendments to be made to a “few points”. The report said the prime minister did not reveal which points would be amended.

“The Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary contacted the government that some legislation on the draft’s second section on the monarch would need to be discussed, Prayut said.

“The changes should be done within a month and the whole legislation process should take another two or three months,” the report said.

In Reuters, Prayuth was quoted saying that there were “three to four” issues concerning the king’s powers that required amendments.

He added that the process would take up to three months as the government would first need to make changes to the current interim constitution before proceeding with amendments to the draft constitution.

How can amendments be made to the interim Constitution?

Section 46 of the interim Constitution states:

In case of necessity and appropriateness, the Council of Ministers and the National Council for Peace and Order shall have joint resolution to amend this Constitution and propose the draft Constitution Amendment to the National Legislative Assembly for approval.

 

The National Legislative Assembly shall approve or disapprove the draft Constitution Amendment within fifteen days as from the date of receipt of the draft Constitution Amendment.

 

The National Legislative Assembly is unable to amend the draft Constitution Amendment, except where the Council of Ministers and the National Council for Peace and Order agree upon.

 

The approval shall be made by a majority of votes of the existing members of the National Legislative Assembly.

 

If the National Legislative Assembly approves the draft Constitution Amendment, the Prime Minister shall present the draft Constitution Amendment to the King for His signature within fifteen days as from the date the approval has been given. When His signature has been given, the draft Constitution Amendment shall come into force as the Constitution upon its publication in the Government Gazette. The Prime Minister shall countersign His Royal Command. In this case, section 37 paragraph eight shall apply mutatis mutandis.*1

Per Reuters and others – such as Thai News Agency (TNA) – the Cabinet and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) have agreed upon, the amendment appears up to the National Legislative Assembly to proceed with.

However, TNA and Khaosod English specifically refer to Section 44 of the interim Constitution (the all-encompassing power) being used to amend the interim Constitution.

But many other publications, including INN, Prachachat, Reuters, The Nation, Thai Post, and ASTV Manager make no mention of Section 44.

In addition, Isra News have the proposed amendment to the draft Constitution and it does not correspond with what a Section 44 order looks like although it does match what a normal amendment (i.e under Section 46) to the interim Constitution would look like.

Prayuth was also quoted as saying in the press conference Tuesday that if the draft Constitution was returned, “we will amend the interim Constitution” which, if quick, will take one month (his quote says “ตอนนี้ถ้าส่งร่างรัฐธรรมนูญลงมาแล้ว เราจะแก้ไขรัฐธรรมนูญฉบับชั่วคราวฯ ถ้าจะให้เร็วก็ประมาณ 1 เดือน”).

Normally, using Section 44 does not take one month whereas for the Cabinet and NCPO to notify the NLA, NLA to amend, for royal endorsement, and publication in the Government Gazette then one month would sound about right.

Even listening to the video (ASTV Manager link above), BP does not hear mention of Section 44.

Has anyone seen clarification whether it will be Section 44 or Section 46 used to amend the interim Constitution?

*1 In case, you noticed paragraph 5 is not the same as per the website, it is because paragraph 5 was amended in 2015.

 

** This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of Asian Correspondent

 

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