Referendum law to be ready by January

The referendum law required for the amendment of the constitution will be completed in January, the government said on Friday.

Surachai Liangboonlertchai, senator and chair of the parliament’s referendum committee, said the committee will finalize its inspection of the bill during the first month of 2021, in time for the parliament’s bid to amend the constitution.

“The analysis is intended to be done by January because the referendum is related to the charter amendment process,” he said.

Only two out of seven charter amendment drafts, one sponsored by coalition parties and another by the opposition parties, except for Move Forward Party, passed the first reading in November.

The draft by Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw) group, which was backed by more than 100,000 signatures, was one of the petitions that were turned down by the parliament.

Both drafts that passed the first reading seek to revise Section 256 of the current constitution to allow for the set-up of a charter committee.

The difference between the two drafts is in regards to the structure of the committee’s members. The opposition wants all 200 of them to be directly elected by the public. Meanwhile, the coalition wants at least 50 of them to be indirectly elected.

The parliament is expected to be done with the second and third readings of the charter amendment bill by the end of December.

As stated by Surachai, the referendum law should be finalized by January, and it must first be ratified by the parliament before a referendum can be arranged, in order to see whether the majority of voters want the charter rewritten.

If the draft is accepted by the voters, the period between February and April will be the period in which the new charter must be submitted to the King — as he is the Head of State — to be signed before it can become law.

As for the proposal regarding citizens abroad voting on the referendum, Surachai said his committee and the Election Commission is considering the proposal that was made by Thai students overseas.

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