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Thai Parliament Moves to Simplify Referendum Act: Major Steps Toward Constitutional Amendments

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The House of Representatives on Tuesday took a significant step forward in their ongoing efforts to simplify constitutional amendments by accepting for consideration four bills looking to amend the Referendum Act during their first reading. With an overwhelming majority of 450 MPs giving their nod, save for one abstention, the path to a potentially transformative change has been set in motion. A dedicated 31-member panel is now tasked with vetting these proposed changes. These bills were championed separately by key political factions: the cabinet, the ruling Pheu Thai Party, the opposition Move Forward Party (MFP), and the Bhumjaithai Party, each aiming for a unified objective.

The crux of these proposed changes lies in abolishing the stringent “double majority” requirement laid out in the current Referendum Act. All four bills favor a more streamlined process, advocating for a single majority or more than half of the votes cast to validate a referendum.

Presently, as per Section 13 of the Referendum Act, two conditions must be met for a referendum to hold water. Firstly, over 50% of the eligible voter population must turn up to vote, and secondly, the majority of those who cast their votes must approve the proposition at hand. This “double majority” rule has been a contentious hurdle, often criticized for hampering the ease with which essential laws, especially those seeking constitutional amendments, can be passed.

During the House session, the topic stirred considerable debate, with multiple MPs suggesting that referendums should be simplified to feature just one question, making it straightforward for voters and thus reducing any potential confusion.

Pheu Thai list-MP Chaturon Chaisang emphasized that, besides abolishing the double majority requirement, the Pheu Thai-sponsored bill aims to amend the Referendum Act to permit campaigns by both supporters and opponents of a referendum question. “These bills are vital for amending the constitution. They pave the way for the establishment of a charter-drafting assembly and ensure that the Referendum Act won’t obstruct charter amendments,” he articulated.

Echoing these sentiments, MFP MP Parit Wacharasindhu argued that the double majority requirement has historically benefitted those opposed to constitutional changes, who would often opt to abstain rather than actively vote against a referendum. This loophole allowed them to derail the referendum’s success by simply reducing voter turnout. “If people disagree with the questions posed in the referendum, rather than voting against them, they may choose to stay home. If the participation requirement isn’t met, the referendum fails,” he explained.

Mr. Parit further disclosed that the MFP plans to propose a specific motion on what question should be asked in a referendum once the amendments to the Referendum Act receive parliamentary approval. Meanwhile, Deputy Pheu Thai leader Chusak Sirinil underscored that their party’s bill aims to reintroduce the single majority system employed during the 2017 charter.

In conclusion, these initiatives signal a potential shift towards a more pliable and accessible constitutional amendment process. By simplifying the referendum requirements, the government hopes to encourage greater public participation and ensure that significant legislative changes reflect the genuine will of the people.


  1. Lisa B. June 18, 2024

    Simplifying the referendum act is a terrible idea! It undermines the importance of needing the broad support of the population.

    • mark_123 June 18, 2024

      I disagree. The double majority requirement makes it almost impossible to pass necessary reforms.

      • Lisa B. June 18, 2024

        If it’s really necessary, then surely more than half of eligible voters should be able to show up and support it. This just opens the door to rash decisions.

      • D. Nguyen June 18, 2024

        Lisa, the current rule essentially allows a minority to block important progress by staying home. That’s not democratic.

  2. Dr. Ananda K. June 18, 2024

    A single majority vote will make referendums simpler and more democratic. People will more likely engage if they feel their vote matters.

    • Sarah93 June 18, 2024

      But won’t this just lead to fewer people actually voting? Lower turnout could end up deciding critical issues.

    • Mr. Phong June 18, 2024

      This is already a big issue. The double majority requirement doesn’t encourage any more participation, it just blocks proposals.

    • Jameson June 18, 2024

      Simplification is needed. If we complicate the process too much, we make it nearly impossible for the average voter to engage.

  3. Chai123 June 18, 2024

    It’s about time we got rid of the double majority. It’s a relic of an outdated system meant to stymie changes.

    • Rose D. June 18, 2024

      Outdated maybe, but it ensures stability. Sudden changes can be harmful.

    • Petra L June 18, 2024

      Stability at the cost of being able to make necessary changes isn’t a good thing.

    • Chai123 June 18, 2024

      Exactly! What’s the point of a democratic process if it can be so easily gridlocked?

  4. Sam June 18, 2024

    Why are we focusing on the process? Shouldn’t the content of these constitutional amendments also be scrutinized?

    • Analyst42 June 18, 2024

      That’s a good point, Sam. But the process dictates how we get to the amendments—which is equally important.

    • Blake June 18, 2024

      True, however, without a fair process, potentially good amendments could fail to pass.

  5. ConcernedStudent June 18, 2024

    As a university student, I believe making it easier for people to vote is crucial. Not everyone has time to stay updated on every issue.

  6. Jonathan Lee June 18, 2024

    A lower hurdle for passing referendums could mean more engagement, but it may also lead to populist decisions that aren’t well thought out.

  7. Marie June 18, 2024

    The opposition to simplifying the process seems to be more about preserving their own power rather than protecting democracy.

    • OldTimer June 19, 2024

      It’s not that simple, Marie. Rules and regulations are there to prevent impulsive decisions.

    • Marie June 19, 2024

      Considering the current challenges, holding on to the status quo isn’t helping anyone.

  8. real_deal June 18, 2024

    The Move Forward Party seems to be driven by common sense. We need newer perspectives in our political system.

  9. A. Scholar June 19, 2024

    The double majority was designed to ensure decisions weren’t made on a whim. Any changes to this need to be considered very carefully.

  10. Zara R. June 19, 2024

    I think it’s a smart move. Empowering more people to make decisions is the essence of a functioning democracy.

    • H. Stern June 19, 2024

      But it can also dilute the quality of decisions, Zara. Not all participation is informed participation.

    • Zara R. June 19, 2024

      That’s a fair point, but excluding people isn’t the solution either. We need better civic education.

  11. grower134 June 19, 2024

    What’s the big fuss? Isn’t this about making it easier for people to vote on important issues?

    • Larry Davis June 19, 2024

      Exactly, grower134. It’s about simplifying the system so more people can participate without being bogged down by complex rules.

    • historian67 June 19, 2024

      Complex rules were set for a reason—to maintain checks and balances.

    • grower134 June 19, 2024

      Maybe it’s time for new kinds of checks and balances that don’t exclude people.

  12. Joe June 19, 2024

    It’s absurd to think lowering the bar for referendums won’t lead to rash decisions. We need safeguards!

  13. Esperanza June 19, 2024

    If the goal is to have more public participation, the process needs to be simplified. This isn’t about rash decisions, it’s about accessibility.

  14. DataAnalyst June 19, 2024

    Statistically, higher barriers to entry do reduce participation. That’s a fact. A single majority would at least ensure more people have their say.

    • Sam June 19, 2024

      The data is clear, but the implications of easier participation need attention too.

  15. Illustrator33 June 19, 2024

    Simplifying referendums will also reduce misinformation, I hope. The simpler, the clearer.

  16. OldGuard June 19, 2024

    Simplicity isn’t always a virtue. Important questions deserve thoughtful, complex consideration.

  17. Noah June 19, 2024

    As someone who doesn’t usually engage in politics, making it easier to understand and vote on issues would make me more likely to participate.

  18. politico_gurl June 19, 2024

    We can’t continue with these overly complicated processes if we expect higher engagement from the younger generation.

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