Pheu Thai Raises Stakes Against Constitutional Court

Redshirts at Rajamangala Stadium, 19 November 2013

(19 November) The ruling Pheu Thai Party has affirmed that it will not let the Constitutional Court stand in its way in its effort to amend the 2007 Constitution.

The Court is due to rule tomorrow whether Pheu Thai Party has violated the Constitution by attempting to amend the provision that would pave way for, among other changes, a fully elected Senate body. 
The case is seen by some as a struggle between the electoral powers allied to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the judicial establishments, which is believed to harbour hostility toward Mr. Thaksin and his political allies.
There are fears that a judicial punishment against Pheu Thai Party would greatly stabilise the government – many Thais still remember the turbulent year of 2008 when separate court rulings managed to oust two Prime Ministers allied to Mr. Thaksin.
Pheu Thai Party cadets have insisted that they will not quietly go away this time, should the verdict turn out badly for them. Their staunchest move came this morning, when representatives of over 300 MPs and Senators in the government faction announced in a joint statement that they do not recognise the legitimacy of Constitutional Court in hearing the case.
Leader of the group, MP Amnuay Klangpha, said Parliament is guaranteed the rights to amend the Constitution by the Constitution itself. "No section or provision grants the Constitutional Court to scrutinise the [parliamentary] effort to revise the Constitution," Mr. Amnuay insisted.
He also asserted that the Constitutional Court does not have the rights to take up the case in the first place, as Section 68 of the 2007 Constitution indicates that the case would have to be processed by the General Attorney first, whereas the judges have decided to skip the procedure entirely.
Speaking next to Mr. Amnuay, Senator Direk Thuengfang claimed that the Constitutional Court is "dangerously" extending its powers beyond the legitimate boundary by interfering with the powers of the Legislative Branch. 
He added, "If we accept the power of the Constitutional Court, the Court will be able to extend its own boundary indefinitely. The result will be like the Constitutional Court operating under its own Constitution".
Amendment of the 2007 Constitution, which was drafted by the military-appointed panel after the 2006 military coup, has been a prominent policy campaigned by Pheu Thai Party. The party insists that revision of the "dictatorship-rooted" Constitution would bear the fruits of democracy for Thailand.
But the effort has not been without controversy. News reports have documented possible frauds committed by some Pheu Thai MPs who allegedly voted on behalf of their absent colleagues. Pheu Thai Party has repeatedly denied the allegation.
Meanwhile, the mass arm of the Pheu Thai Party, the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) has mobilised its Redshirts supporters to stage an overnight rally in Rajamangala Stadium this evening, an event described by UDD as a show of support for the democratically-elected in the eve of the Constitutional Court′s verdict.
Notable Redshirts leaders and Pheu Thai MPs have been taking turn in berating the Constitutional Court′s alleged abuse of power on the stage throughout the night. Over 50,000 Redshirts are expected to attend the rally.
Earlier in the evening, Ms. Thida Tojirakarn, chairwoman of the UDD, told reporters that today′s rally is a "show of strength by the majority population who stands by democratic system. They are here to listen whether the court ruling will be problematic toward democracy".
She also portrayed the rally as a peaceful assembly which has no intention in intimidating either the court or the anti-government protesters who are organising their own rally in Ratchadamnoen Avenue, at the other side of the capital city.
"You can see we assemble in a sports stadium, which is a closed venue," Ms. Thida said, "We are not here to intimidate the Constitutional Court, or to pitch one group of protesters against the other. If we wanted to do that we would have met at Ratchaprasong Intersection".
Nevertheless, if the Constitutional Court handed down a "negative" verdict, the UDD might prolong their rally to 24 November, according to Ms. Thida. "We want to show the protesters at Ratchadamnoen Avenue who want to overthrow Thaksin Regime with their so-called people revolution that the Redshirts are standing by democratic system".
Another UDD leader, Mr. Weng Tojirakarn, added that the Redshirts have agreed to stand firm and wait for instruction from the UDD leadership regardless of how the verdict turns out.
"We will fight with peaceful means, under a political strategy. We will not resort to violence, because there is no point to destabilize our elected government," said Mr. Weng.

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