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Charter Court requires referendum prior to drafting of new constitution

The Constitutional Court today ruled that Parliament is constitutionally empowered to draft a new constitution but that a referendum needs to be held to get prior public consent.

The much-awaited ruling has set off a new round of debate as to whether Parliament can still go ahead with the third and final reading of the constitutional amendment bill scheduled for March 17.

The bill seeks a rewrite of the current Constitution via a 200-member Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) representing people from various walks of life.

After a marathon deliberation, the Constitutional Court decided while Parliament has the constitutional duty to write a new constitution the process needs a prior public consent through a referendum. Another referendum on the new draft is also constitutionally compulsory, according to the ruling.

The ruling was in response to an appeal from a group of legislators who question the constitutionality of the constitutional amendment bill which seeks to revise the Constitution which was drafted while the military was still in power and passed in a referendum in 2016.

In an official notification to Parliament President Chuan Leekpai, the Constitutional Court President Worawit Kangsasithiam said today that the court has ruled that Parliament has the duty and authority to draft a new Constitution, but it is the people who have the power to install a constitution and must give their consent, via a referendum, after the completion of the draft.

The ruling, however, was immediately interpreted differently by rival political parties. MP Paibul Nittitawan of Palang Pracharath said the ruling should mean that the constitutional amendments bill is no longer valid as no referendum had been held before it was drafted.

Supporters of the draft, however, believe that the vote in the third reading of the bill should go ahead while a referendum can be held afterwards.

Parliament President Chuan noted that there need to be a conclusive debate on the ruling.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)

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