National Legislative Assembly president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai said yesterday that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has no power to amend the provisional charter in order to require a national referendum for the draft constitution.
Pornpetch, a former judge, suggested that the Cabinet and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) jointly propose such an amendment to the NLA, which would vote on whether to pass the motion.
He said that this suggestion was based on Article 46 of the post-coup interim constitution.
Article 46 states: "In case of necessity and appropriateness, the Council of Ministers and the National Council for Peace and Order shall have a 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."
Pornpetch said that General Prayut's sovereign powers as the coup leader had ended when the provisional charter was promulgated.
He said that he did not think Prayut, as the NCPO leader, would be able to invoke his powers under Article 44 of the interim charter to make the amendment, as suggested by many people.
Calls are growing for a national referendum to be held on the draft constitution completed by the Constitution Drafting Committee.
"An amendment to the interim constitution must come from the co-operation between the Cabinet, the NCPO and the NLA. They will have to consider this together before seeking royal endorsement. Other agencies are not allowed to get involved with this matter," Pornpetch said.
He said that the proposal to hold a referendum could be made by anyone but that a decision to stage it should be made after careful consideration by the agencies involved.
The NLA chief said he expected any amendment to the provisional charter to take about three months to complete if the process were carried out through Article 46.
Meanwhile, Direk Thuengfang, deputy chairman of the National Reform Council's political reform committee, said yesterday that the panel would conclude within two weeks which of the articles in the draft constitution needed to be revised.
He said the panel's 15-member subcommittee would meet on Wednesday to discuss the matter. It was agreed that revisions would be made to certain articles rather than the entire draft, he said.
According to Direk, revisions would involve controversial clauses such as the one that would allow non-MPs to become prime minister, and also provisions about a new electoral system.
In a related development, the NLA is set to vote today on whether to pass a draft law on public demonstrations. The law would require organisers of public demonstrations to inform the relevant authorities at least 24 hours in advance.
If the law becomes effective, such gatherings will be banned at Parliament, Government House and court compounds.