According to the previous Thai constitution of 2007, the provisions on Citizen Participation- People’s Direct Political Participation in chapter VII are stipulated as follows;
Section 163 Eligible voters of no fewer than 10,000 shall have the right to sign a petition to the President of the Senate to cause the National Assembly to consider legislation under the provisions in Chapter 3 and Chapter 5 of this Constitution.
The petition must be accompanied by the Bill being proposed.
The rules and procedure for petition and scrutiny shall be in accordance with the provisions of the law.
At the stage of adopting the petition under paragraph 1 the House of Representatives and the Senate shall permit the Eligible voters to elucidate each petition. The extraordinary committee members shall be composed not less than one-third of the Eligible voters of the extraordinary committee.
Section 164 Eligible voters of no fewer than 20,000 can sign a petition to the President of the Senate under Section 274 to have a person removed from office under Section 270.
The petition under paragraph one must clearly state one by one the wrong-doings of the holder of office in question allegedly committed.
The rules and procedure and conditions for petition under paragraph one must be in accordance with the organic Act on counter corruption.
Section 165 An eligible voter has the right to vote in a referendum. A referendum must be conducted under the following circumstances:
1. Where the Council of Ministers is of the opinion that certain action may affect the interests of the nation or people, the Prime Minister with the consent of the Council of Ministers may seek advice of the President of the House or of the Senate before announcing the referendum in the Government Gazette.
2. Where there is a law requiring a referendum:
The referendum under (1) or (2) can be either conclusive with a majority vote on the issue involved, or consultative to advise the Council of Ministers unless the law stipulates otherwise.
The vote in a referendum shall be for or against in the matter for which it is intended. It must not contradict the Constitution, nor be about an individual or a group of individuals.
Before a referendum, the State must provide adequate information, giving both those for and those against an equal opportunity to express their views.
The rules and procedure of a referendum shall be in accordance with the organic Act on referendum; that must at least be informed about the procedure, time, and the number of votes required to be decisive.
In fact, referendum has been included in 5 constitutions: 1949, 1968, 1974, 1991, and 1997, including the interim charter in 2006.
The only referendum in Thai political history was held on 19 August, 2007 for 17th drafted constitution, under the military government. After the military staged a coup d’état in 2006, the military abrogated the constitution, dissolved the parliament and constitutional court and drafted an interim constitution, then called for the first referendum for the drafted constitution.
The voter turnout was 57.61% (25,978,954) from 45,092,955 eligible voters. The result was 57.81% of voters voted for the drafted constitution and 42.19% voted against the draft.
“The problem is that both constitutions authorized only the government to call for a referendum at their discretion. In this case, the government will not call for referendum on any issues which they consider controversial and likely to fail. Every government will turn to the House of Representatives, the majority of whom support them, when they want to implement highly controversial policies or pass controversial bills. Thai people as the true sovereigns of the state have few options to counter-balance the government peacefully and effectively. When they feel that they cannot rely on political institutions to make their voices heard, they are more likely to go to the streets to protest against the government which has always led to violence in recent years.”
Regards to the citizen’s petition under Section 163, in the past there have been more than 50 petitions proposed to the Head of Senate but only a few petitions were approved, while the rest failed to receive approval or due to the end of the term of the House of Representatives. However, after the 2007 Constitution was abrogated, this provision isn’t stipulated in the current interim charter.