Charter court urged to drop amendment inquiry
Three democracy advocates have called for the Constitution Court to abort this week's inquiry into charter change, arguing the high court has transgressed its authority and meddled in legislative affairs, as a result of its misinterpreting the charter.The three aired their views at a seminar yesterday organised by the Democratisation Studies Institute led by former Thaksin government minister Chaturon Chaisang. The judicial inquiry is scheduled on Thursday and Friday.
Senior judge Satit Pairoh said Article 68 of the Constitution did not empower individuals to directly petition the high court to launch an inquiry, arguing any complaints should be submitted through the Office of the Attorney-General, which had, in turn, ruled against litigation. "It is deemed unlawful to file complaints under Article 68, hence there is no justification to rule on such complaints," he said.
Satit said the allegation about the toppling of democratic rule with the King as head of state was groundless, as draft provisions in the charter change bill had clearly banned any amendments affecting the monarchy and statehood.
Another advocate, Asdang Panikabutr, said the intent of Article 68 was to pre-empt any attempts to stage a coup.
The high court had erred in invoking this provision in order to look into the charter rewrite, which should not be construed as a power seizure, he argued. Asdang said that in his view the trouble stemmed from the prevailing polarisation between an elected government and extra-constitutional power.
So long as the government was plagued by corruption and failed to meet the people's aspirations, it would never defeat the extra-constitutional power, he said.
He said opponents had crossed the line in trying to topple the government regardless of means or the consequences for democratic rule.
"Opponents are manipulating the political system to wield extra-constitutional power without caring for what will happen to the country," he said.
Advocate Panas Thasaneeyanont said charter amendments could result in a new charter and at the same time uphold the political system. Panas said the legislature should not have delayed the final vote on the charter change bill, because the judiciary had no mandate to block the legislative process.
Constitution Court spokesman Somrit Chaiwong said the high court would on Wednesday rule on the list of some 20 witnesses submitted by the disputing parties. The ruling will cap the number of witnesses to testify from the stand at the two-day inquiry. Upon completion of the inquiry, the high court would set a date for handing down its verdict, Somrit said.
He went on the clarify that all witnesses in the case were obliged to submit written statements but oral testimonies were optional.
Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said that as a witness opposing charter change, he will submit a written statement by tomorrow. His statement will outline the links between a charter rewrite and the mass movement orchestrated by former premier Thaksin Shinawatra to introduce a totally new charter and not amendments to existing provisions.
Commenting on the safety threats to judges, he said the government was obliged to uphold the law and rein in the red shirts. "The government should not allow its red allies to run amok," he said.