PPP puts off plan to amend charter

Wants to ensure support from its coalition allies

PRADIT RUANGDIT

The People Power party has decided to defer its plan to rewrite the constitution to make sure it can muster enough support from other coalition parties to push for the amendment bill to pass through its first reading in parliament.

The postponement of the much-anticipated meeting of all six party leaders originally set for yesterday comes amid mounting concern by the PPP over the reluctance of other parties to back it.

The PPP needs 316 votes from members of both houses for the bill to pass.

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, also the PPP leader, on Sunday called off a meeting with five coalition party leaders, citing engagements at other functions.

But Chart Thai member Warawuth Silpa-archa said the prime minister had not contacted his father and party leader, Mr Banharn, who returned from China on Sunday.

"Chart Thai will wait for formal contact [from the prime minister]. So far, there has been none," Mr Warawuth said.

Matchimathipataya leader Anongwan Thepsuthin and Puea Pandin chief Suvit Khunkitti also said they were waiting for invitations from Mr Samak.

The prime minister said it was necessary for all the coalition party leaders to meet and discuss the charter amendment plan and find a common ground before the draft amendment bill is presented to parliament for consideration.

"Party leaders are there. Any arrangements or changes must be discussed with them.

"The aim of the meeting is to reach an understanding," Mr Samak said.

Prinya Thewanaruemitkul, vice rector of Thammasat University, said Mr Samak wanted to make sure of solid backing for the charter amendment plan.

Failure to pass the first reading could deal the government a blow, he said.

Mr Prinya said the proposed amendment plan had been stalled partly by Chart Thai and Puea Pandin disagreeing over the issues of the Election Commission and National Counter Corruption Commission and the transitory provisions in the proposal.

Samart Kaewmeechai, secretary to the government whip, said a firm stance among coalition party leaders is necessary to push the charter amendment plan through.

There is still enough time to table the draft amendment as parliament is in session until May 19.

Chaiyos Jirametheekorn, deputy whip of Puea Pandin, said Chai Chidchob, the government chief whip, seemed soft in dealing with other government whips.

As the PPP is pushing for the charter amendment, a source who is a Chart Thai whip said the amendment process had had a bumpy ride because the PPP itself was indecisive and had differing groups with their own different needs.

They were not clear about what they wanted to amend the charter for, the source said.

Some government whips agreed that now was not the right time to table the proposal to parliament given the absence of House Speaker Yongyuth Tiyapairat.

The former PPP deputy leader has stepped down as House Speaker while he faces trial for alleged poll fraud. Senate Speaker Prasopsuk Boondech is acting for him as House Speaker.

Mr Prasopsuk has made clear his opposition to rushing to amend the constitution.

A team of Chart Thai legal experts yesterday met to discuss the PPP's amendment proposal.

Ekkapot Panyaem, a Chart Thai MP for Pathum Thani, said his party leader will today make clear Chart Thai's position on the PPP's proposal.

Mr Ekkapot said the party had reservations about changes to Chapters 3 to 12 as proposed by the PPP.

"The proposed amendments by the PPP do not allow for revisions to be made to them.

"The Chart Thai party thinks that some issues need to be revised. Chart Thai will ask for revisions to be made to Chapters 3 to 12," he said.

If the PPP refuses to accept its proposal, then Chart Thai may consider withdrawing its support for the PPP's charter amendment bid, Mr Ekkapot said.

He added that Chart Thai may come up with its own constitution amendment plan.

Puea Pandin recently said the priority of the government should be tackling economic problems affecting the people rather than pressing for changes to the charter.

Bangkok Post