PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongphan read the group’s statement issued Friday, November 19, condemning the government’s attempt to propose the two charter amendment drafts in the joint parliamentary session, saying the action means the coalition government led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva did not show respect to the vote of nearly 15 million people who endorsed
the current constitution.
The statement said that the PAD has urged the government several times to conduct a referendum on any charter amendment, but the two drafts which will be considered next week did not pass through any public referendum, but were only approved by the Cabinet.
The statement also blamed the two charter amendment drafts merely giving benefit to politicians, not the Thai people or the country, while accusing the government of being tricky by setting up several committees to study amendment of the charter, but finally focusing only on articles involved with the politicians.
On Nov 16, the Cabinet agreed with the results of the study by the committee for political reform and charter amendment, chaired by Prof Sombat Thamrong-thanyawong that Article 190 requiring parliamentary approval for any treaty to be signed with other countries and Article 93 and 98 on amending the electoral system.
Only two of the proposed six points of charter amendment have been approved by the Cabinet as other issues remain in dispute such as the charter amendment on political party dissolution and a ban on politicians found violating the charter. At that time the premier said he worried about criticism of amending the Constitution for the benefit of the politicians themselves.
The PAD statement said the consideration Prof Sombat’s drafts automatically paved the way for the draft proposed in 2008 by the People’s Committee for Amending the 2007 Constitution led by Weng Tojirakarn of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) to be raised in Parliament.
The statement said the consideration of Mr Weng’s draft will lead to confrontation between the Red Shirts and the Yellow Shirts.
The PAD, in its statement, reaffirmed the group’s movement to oppose the charter amendment is aimed at protecting the national interest, while demanding that concerned officials withdraw the drafts or that the members of parliament vote against their passage.
The Yellow Shirts also called on the government to hold a referendum on the charter amendment and said they will demonstrate in accordance with the law outside the compound of Parliament Nov 23 -25 from 8am until the joint session ends each day.
The group vowed the protest will continue until the drafts are withdrawn or rejected.
PAD key leader Sondhi Limthongkul said he believes the House of Representatives will be dissolved in November and that this is a “well-planned political game” that will give the premier legitimacy to dissolve Parliament.
Another PAD leader, Gen Chamlong Srimuang, reaffirmed the demonstration will be peaceful and key PAD leaders will join the protest every day. He said the Yellow Shirts do not want to confront the anti-government Red Shirt supporters who may also rally in the same period to support the bills proposed by their leader.
The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) supports proposed amendments to the charter by its co-leader, Weng Tojirakarn, who is in jail pending trial on terrorism charges.
Bangkok Remand Prison director Sophon Thitithammaphruk said he has no authority to temporarily release Mr Weng to present his draft amendments to the charter to the lower house on Tuesday as requested by House Speaker Chai Chidchob.
The release must be ordered by a court of justice, he said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abhisit said PAD has its right to protest the charter amendment while asserting that his government has never thought to amend the constitution to grant amnesty for politicians or cause more conflict.
The premier said the two charter amendment drafts approved by the Cabinet do not have any impact on the overall structure of the country’s main political institutions, defending that the amendment on parliamentary approval for international treaties will facilitate the signing of agreements with other countries, while the change of electoral system from multiple to single constituencies is agreed by a majority of MPs and the public.
When asked about the possibility that the Red Shirts will also rally to support Mr Weng’s draft, Mr Abhisit said this proves that people have differing stances over the charter amendment and that the government is trying to find a solution.