Joint parliamentary session votes in support of three bills seeking to amend Constitution

BANGKOK, Feb 25 -- The joint parliamentary session of House of Representatives and Senate late on Friday voted in support of three bills seeking to amend the Constitution as the government's version would be the main draft for consideration by the vetting committee.

After 32 hours over two days of hotly debated deliberation amidst protests, the joint parliamentary session late on Friday night voted to approve the first reading by a vote of 399-199 with 14 abstentions.

At least half of the members of the two Houses, or 324, were needed to pass the motion. The government managed to do so with support from many senators and some opposition MPs from the Bhum Jai Thai Party. Bhum Jai Thai MP Chai Chidchob, the former House speaker, abstained.

Opposition MP Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin, Matubhum Party leader, who led the 2006 coup to overthrow the government of Thaksin Shinawatra when he was the army chief, was not present during the voting.

The three draft Constitution amendments were separately proposed by the Cabinet, the ruling Pheu Thai Party, and the coalition Chart Thai Pattana Party.

All three drafts proposed the amendment of only Section 291 of the 2007 Constitution, each seeking to set up a Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA), but with differing numbers of members and different selection processes.

After the vote, a 45-member vetting committee was appointed to prepare for the next readings of the amendment bills. The panel consists of 10 senators and 35 MPs and would complete its work within 30 days after next Wednesday.

House speaker Somsak Kiartsuranond, who is also the Parliament President ex-officio, declared the meeting closed at around 1 am on Saturday. (MCOT online news)
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