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Parliament of Thailand

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Parliament of Thailand

National Assembly
รัฐสภา
(Ratthasapha)
File:Seal of the National Assembly of Thailand.png
Type
Type Bicameral
Houses Senate
House of Representatives
Leadership
President Somsak Kiatsuranont (Pheu Thai Party)
Since 3 August 2011
Vice President Nikom Wairatpanij
Since 23 August 2012
Structure
Seats 650
150 Senators
500 Representatives (MPs)
Senate Political groups 76 elected, 74 appointed
House Political groups Pheu Thai Party,
Democrat Party,
Bhumjaithai Party,
Chartthaipattana Party,
Chart Pattana Puea Pandin Party,
Phalang Chon Party,
Rak Thailand Party,
Matubhum Party
Elections
Senate Last election 2 March 2008
House Last election 3 July 2011
Meeting place
Parliament House of Thailand, Dusit, Bangkok, Thailand
Website
www.parliament.go.th

The National Assembly or the Parliament of Thailand (Thai: รัฐสภา; RTGS: Ratthasapha; Abrv: NAT) is the legislative branch of the government of Thailand. The National Assembly of Thailand is a bicameral body, consisting of two chambers: the Senate of Thailand (upper house), and the House of Representatives of Thailand (lower house). The Assembly is composed of 650 members: 500 Representatives (MPs) and 150 Senators.

The National Assembly was established in 1932 after the adoption of Thailand's first Constitution, which transformed Thailand from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. The Assembly took its current form after the adoption of the 2007 Constitution of Thailand. The National Assembly currently convenes in the Parliament House of Thailand, which is located in the Dusit district in the capital Bangkok, Thailand.

Composition

The National Assembly of the Kingdom of Thailand is a bicameral legislature composed of a Senate and a House of Representatives. Combined, the Assembly has 650 members, 576 of which are elected (500 MPs and 76 Senators). Others include 74 non elected (74 Senators through party selection). The majority of elections in Thailand follows the First Past the Post system which is used in the elections for the 375 members of the House of Representatives and 76 members of the Senate. The remaining 125 members of the House are elected by party list proportional representation.

The Senate

Main article: Senate of Thailand

The upper house is called the Senate of Thailand (วุฒิสภา; RTGS: Wutthisapha). The chamber is non-partisan and has limited legislative powers. The Senate is made up of 76 elected members (one representing each province) and the rest (73[1] or74) are selected from the following sectors: from the academic sector, the public sector, the private sector, the professional sector and other sectors, by the Senate Selection Committee. The senate's term lasts six years. It forbids members from holding any additional office or membership in political parties.[2]

The House of Representatives

Main article: House of Representatives of Thailand

The lower house is called the House of Representatives of Thailand (สภาผู้แทนราษฎร; RTGS: Sapha Phu Thaen Ratsadon). The chamber is made up of 375 members from single constituency elections and 125 members from "proportional representation" by party lists, as termed in the 2007 Constitution of Thailand. Thailand's "proportional representation" is parallel voting or Mixed Member Majoritarian (MMM). This is where the 125 seats are divided, to different political parties in accordance with the 'proportional representation' popular vote each party receives. Every eligible voter in Thailand in the event of a general election has two votes, the first for the constituency MP, the second for the party the voter prefers. The second category is then added and the results divided into 8 electoral areas. The other 375 seats are directly elected through a constituency basis. The House's term lasts four years, however, a dissolution can happen at any time.[3]

Elections

Elections in Thailand are held under universal suffrage, however some restrictions apply: The voter must be a national of Thailand; if not by birth then by being a citizen for 5 years, must be over 18 years old before the year the election is held and the voter must have also registered 90 days before the election at his constituency. Those barred from voting in House elections are: members of the sangha or clergy, those suspended from the privilege for various reasons, detainees under legal or court orders and being of unsound mind or of mental infirmity. Voting in Thailand is compulsory.[4]

Further information: Elections in Thailand

Officers

The President of the National Assembly of Thailand is an ex officio position occupied by the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Thailand, who upon election as Speaker of the House, will automatically assume office as President of the National Assembly. The Vice President of the National Assembly of Thailand is also an ex officio position occupied by the President of the Senate of Thailand.[5] The current officers are:

Title Name Appointment
President of the National Assembly and
Speaker of the House of Representatives
Somsak Kiatsuranont 1 August 2011
Vice President of the National Assembly
and President of the Senate
Nikom Wairatpanij 23 August 2012

Functions

Legislation

The Powers of the National Assembly are enshrined in Chapter 6, Part 7 of the 2007 Constitution of Thailand.[6] The main powers of the National Assembly are its legislative powers, the procedure for an enactment of a Bill is as follows:

  • A bill can be introduced to the National Assembly for consideration by: the Cabinet of Thailand, a minimum of twenty members of the House of Representatives, a Court (Judiciary), a constitutional independent organ (but only in respect of the law that is concerned with that organization) and persons having the right to vote signing and petition of not less than ten thousand in number (a form of direct democracy). If the bill is a money bill its introduction must only be made with the endorsement of the Prime Minister.[7]
  • The bill is then introduced to the House of Representative for debate, amendment and vote. When the House of Representatives has considered the bill and passed a resolution approving it, the House of Representatives shall submit the bill to the Senate. The Senate must finish the consideration of such bill within sixty days; but if it is a money bill, the consideration must be finished within thirty days.[8]
  • After the Senate has finished the consideration of a bill, and if it agrees with the House of Representatives the bill will the proceed to the next stage. If the Senate disagrees with the House of Representatives, then the bill will be withheld and returned to the House of Representatives. If there is an amendment, the amended bill will then be returned to the House of Representatives. If the House of Representatives approves such an amendment, the bill will proceed to the next stage. In other cases, each Houses will appoint representatives (being or not being its members) in equal number (as may be fixed by the House of Representatives), to constitute a joint committee for considering the bill. The joint committee will then prepare a report and submit the bill which it has already considered to both Houses. If both Houses approve the bill already considered by the joint committee, further proceedings under section the bill will proceed to the next stage. If either House disapproves it, the bill will be withheld.[9]
  • After a bill has already been approved by the National Assembly, the Prime Minister shall present it to the King for his Royal Assent within twenty days from the date of the receipt of such bill from the National Assembly, and it shall come into force upon its publication in the Royal Gazette.[10]
  • If the King refuses his Royal assent, by withholding his signature to a bill and either returns it to the National Assembly or does not return it within ninety days (a veto), the National Assembly must re-deliberate that bill. If the National Assembly resolves to reaffirm the bill with the votes of not less than two-thirds of the total number of existing members of both Houses, the Prime Minister shall present such bill to the King for signature on another occasion. If the King still does not sign and return the bill within thirty days, the Prime Minister can cause the bill to be promulgated as an Act in the Royal Gazette as if the King had signed it. Giving the National Assembly the power to overturn the Royal veto.[11]

Relationship with the Government

The Government of Thailand, particularly the Cabinet of Thailand is answerable directly to the National Assembly. The constitution mandates that within fifteen days of being sworn-in the Cabinet must state its policies to the National Assembly.[12] The National Assembly has the authority to call any Minister to appear before it at any time to explain policies or answer questions. This power of scrutiny is extremely important as some members of the Cabinet do not need to be a member of the National Assembly, if they are a member they can only be from the lower house or the House of Representatives, as the constitution expressly forbidden members of the Senate from being members of the Cabinet.[13]

As the Prime Minister is selected from the ranks of the House of Representatives and elected by the House, the Prime Minister is therefore directly responsible to the legislature. The National Assembly can also compel him to appear before it like any other Minister, and force him to explain policies and answer questions, just like any other member of the Cabinet. In reverse the Cabinet also has some powers over the National Assembly, the Cabinet can, according to the constitution, call an emergency session of the National Assembly at any time.[14]

Appointment

Apart from legislative and scrutiny functions, the National Assembly also has the power of appointment and removal. The House is given exclusive rights to elect the Prime Minister of Thailand, first the candidate must receive the support of one-fifth of all members, afterwards a simple majority vote will confirm his appointment which will be made officially by the King, the royal assent is then countersigned by the President of the National Assembly.[15]

The Senate is given exclusive powers to advise on the appointment of members of the judiciary and members of independent government organizations. These include the: Judges of the Constitutional Court of Thailand, members of the Election Commission, Members of the Counter Corruption Commission and the National Human Rights Commission.[16] However the power to appoint members of the State Audit Commission (including the Auditor General) belongs to the King, with only a counter signature of the President of the Senate.[17]

The National Assembly also has the power to impeach and remove these officers. The Prime Minister can only be removed by the House in a vote of no confidence. Members of the Cabinet are not appointed by the National Assembly, but they can be removed by the National Assembly in a similar process, this time the vote of no confidence is allowed by both or individual houses. Judges and Independent government officers can also be removed by both houses of the National Assembly.[18]

Term

The two houses of the National Assembly have two different terms. In accordance with the constitution the Senate is elected to a six-year term, while the House is elected to a four-year term. Overall the term of the National Assembly is based on that of the House. The National Assembly each year will sit in two sessions an "ordinary session" and a "legislative session". The first session of the National Assembly must take place within thirty days after the general election of the House of Representatives. The first session must be opened by the King in person by reading a Speech from the Throne; this ceremony is held in the Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall. He may also appoint the Crown Prince or a representative to carry out this duty. It is also the duty of the King to prologue sessions through a Royal Decree when the House term expires. The King also has the prerogative to call extraordinary sessions and prolong sessions at his discretion.

The National Assembly may host a "Joint-sitting" of both Houses under several circumstances. These include: The appointment of a Regent, any alteration to the 1924 Palace Law of Succession, the opening of the first session, the announcement of policies by the Cabinet of Thailand, the approval of the declaration of war, the hearing of explanations and approval of a treaty and the amendment of the Constitution.

Privileges

Members of the National Assembly enjoy parliamentary privilege which were enshrined in the constitution, these include: the "words expressed in giving statements of fact or opinions or in casting the vote" in a joint sitting of the National Assembly, No member of the House of Representatives or Senator shall, during a session, be arrested, detained or summoned by a warrant for an inquiry as the suspect in a criminal case unless permission of the House of which he or she is a member is obtained or he or she is arrested in flagrante delicto.

The two Houses also retain the privilege to decide its own rules and procedures, committees, quorum of committees, sittings, the submission and consideration of organic law bills and bills, the submission of motions, the consultation, debates, the passing of a resolution, the recording and disclosure of the passing of a resolution, the interpellation, the initiation of a general debate and committee members.

Parliament House of Thailand

From June 28, 1932 to 1974, the legislature met in the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. After the first elections to the National Assembly in 1933, King Prajadhipok officially gave the Throne Hall for the legislature's use. However through the years the composition of the Assemblies increased and the Throne Hall became too small to accommodate all the legislators and its secretariat. Three attempts were made to build a new building, however each failed because the government in power was terminated before a budget could be appropriated.

The fourth time however was a success with the help of King Bhumibol Adulyadej who appropriated to the National Assembly, royal land immediately north of the Throne Hall for the site of the new Parliament House. Construction began on 5 November 1970, with a budget of 51,027,360 baht. The new Parliament House complex comprises three buildings:

  • The First Building: or the Parliament House with 3 stories containing the meeting chamber for the National Assembly, the chamber is shared by both the Senate and the House. It also contain the offices of the President and Vice President of the National Assembly and other deputy presiding officers.
  • The Second Building: a 7 story building contains the Secretariat and offices of the National Assembly as well as its official printing press.
  • The Third Building: a 2 story building used as the Parliament club, with facilities for Assembly members.

The Parliament House was first used in 19 September 1974, as the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall became a national historic building and was returned to the king as part of the Dusit Palace. From then on the Parliament House became the primary building used for the National Assembly, only the State Opening ceremony is now held in the Throne Hall.

On 29 July 2008, the National Assembly appropriated new funds to construct a new and grander Parliament House. As of December 2008, a site belonging to the Royal Thai Army has been found but has not yet been confirmed.

History

28 June 1932

Prior to 1932, the Kingdom of Siam did not possess a legislature, as all legislative powers were vested within the person of the monarch. This has been the case since the foundation of the Sukhothai Kingdom in the 12th century: as the King was seen as a “Dharmaraja” or “King who rules in accordance with Dharma” (the Buddhist law of righteousness). However on 24 June 1932 a group of civilians and military officers, calling themselves the Khana Ratsadon (or People’s Party) carried out a bloodless revolution, in which the 150 years of absolute rule of the House of Chakri was ended. In its stead the group advocated a constitutional form of monarchy with an elected legislature.

The "Draft Constitution" of 1932 signed by King Prajadhipok, create Thailand’s first legislature, a People’s Assembly with 70 appointed members. The Assembly met for the first time on 28 June 1932, in the Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall. The Khana Ratsadon decided that the people were not yet ready for an elected assembly, however they later changed their minds. By the time the "Permanent" Constitution came into force in December of that year, elections were scheduled for the 15 November 1933. The new constitution also changed the composition of the Assembly to 78 directly elected and 78 appointed (by the Khana Ratsadon) together compromising 156 members.

Attempts at democracy

After the Second World War a new constitution was promulgated in 1946 under the government of Pridi Panomyong. The constitution is considered Thailand’s most democratic and created for the first time a bicameral legislature: the Senate and the House of Representatives. Also for the first and last time the constitution called for a fully elected Senate (albeit indirectly) and House, the Senate to 6 years term and the House to 4 years. The ban on political parties were lifted and the first full elections were held in 1946. However in 1947 a coup d’etat executed by the military, abrogated the constitution and replaced it with the 1947 ‘temporary’ and then a ‘permanent’ charter in 1949. The new constitution retained the House but created a 100 member Senate directly appointed by the King.

Military dominace

This charter lasted until 1957 when the military again carried out a coup d’etat and created a single 123 member appointed National Assembly, 103 of which were from the military or police. In 1959 Field Marshal Sarit Dhanarajata carried out another coup d’etat this time abolishing the National Assembly altogether. In 1969 under Thanom Kittikachorn the National Assembly returned; this time with a 219 member House and again a royally appointed Senate. This lasted until 1972 when Thanom overthrew his own government and ruled the country through a National Executive Council. Under pressure Thanom reinstated a 299 appointed National Legislative Assembly, 200 which were members of the military.

In 1974 the rule of the 'Three Tyrants’ (as Thanom’s tenure became known) was finally overthrown. A new constitution was promulgated, this time swinging the power back to the legislature by creating a bicameral legislature with an elected House and a House-appointed Senate. Within two years the military led by Tanin Kraivixien again abrogated the constitution and installed a royally-appointed 360 member unicameral National Assembly.

By 1978, Kriangsak Chomanan (who succeeded Tanin in 1977) restored the bicameral legislature with an elected 301 member House and a Prime Ministerially-appointed 225 Senate. This arrangement lasted for almost 13 years until Army Commander General Suchinda Kraprayoon overthrew the government of Chatichai Choonhavan in 1991 and returned the unicameral appointed National Assembly with 292 members. However Suchinda’s rule was brought down by the Black May uprising, which led to the overthrow of the military and the drafting of a new constitution.

The present

The Constitution of 1997 or the People’s Constitution returned Thailand to democracy with a National Assembly composed of an elected 500 (400 directly, 100 by party-lists) House of Representatives, and an elected 200 member Senate, this arrangement lasted for almost ten years. The constitution was abrogated following the 2006 Coup d’etat, by the military under General Sonthi Boonyaratglin. In 2007 the military appointed National Legislative Assembly to draft the new constitution. This copy was eventually adopted after it was approved through a referendum in 2007, this is the constitution currently in use.

See also

References

External links

  • 2007 Constitution of Thailand
  • Parliament of Thailand
  • Senate of Thailand
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