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THAILAND SENATE

 

1.  A new constitution, adopted in 1997, has come into force. It provides for election by universal franchise to the Senate which had previously been appointed. The first senatorial election will take place on 4 March 2000.

 

The new Senate has took office on 23 March 2000.

 

2. Following the deposition of the civil governement by the armed forces of Thaïland on 19 september 2006, the Parliament was suspended. The laws, normally passed by the National Assembly and the Senate, will be promulgated by the temporary military executive.

 

I - COMPOSITION

 

262 appointed senators (200 elected from 4 March 2000).

 

II - SYSTEM OF APPOINTMENT AND ELECTION

 

1) System in place until 22 March 2000

 

Appointment by the King on proposal by the Prime Minister for a period of 4 years. But since the new Constitution came into force on 11 October 1997, appointment is no longer permitted.

 

Most recent appointed senate: 22 March 1996.

 

Criteria for eligibility: 35 years of age, a Thai citizen by birth.

 

Criteria for ineligibility : a member of a political party.

 

Criteria for incompatibility : deputies or local elected representatives; members of the Constitutional Court, of government courts, of the national anti-corruption Commission, of the Revenue Court, of the National Human Rights Commission; Ombudsmen; concessionaires or beneficiaries of a service provided by an organ of government, a party to a monopoly contract with the State.

 

2) System introduced by the new constitution

 

Method of voting : election by direct universal franchise with majority voting in a single round in 76 constituencies for the 200 seats. Each elector has a single vote.

 

Term of office : 6 years, not renewable for the next election.

Last renewal : 19 April 2006

 

Criteria for eligibility: 40 years of age, a Thai citizen by birth, holder of a university degree.

 

Criteria for ineligibility :

 

 member of a political party ; a former deputy may only stand as a candidate for as senatorial post if his term of office as a deputy ended at least one year previously.

 

 local elected representatives.

 

 civil servants or employees of the State, provincial or local government.

 

 employees of public companies or other organs of State.

 

 officials holding administrative powers.

 

 members of the Constitutional Court, of government courts, of the national anti-corruption Commission, of the Revenue Court, of the National Human Rights Commission; Ombudsmen.

 

Criteria for incompatibility :

 

 same as those for ineligibility, plus

 

 concessionaires or beneficiaries of a service provided by an organ of government, a party to a monopoly contract with the State.

 

 ministerial or other political function (a senator can only be appointed a minister or to another political post one year after the end of his senatorial term of office).

 

III - ORGANISATION OF SESSIONS

 

Under the new Constitution, there are two categories of session.

 

A - ORDINARY SESSION

 

An ordinary session of 120 days during which the two assemblies are authorised to perform any task: legislative work and supervision of the government.

 

B - LEGISLATIVE SESSION

 

A legislative session of 120 days during which only legislative work (examination of bills, government orders, amendments to the constitution, approval of a treaty) is permitted. The supervisory function is restricted: only questions are permitted but motions are prohibited especially motions of censure, except when both chambers meet in Congress and decide otherwise.

 

IV - RELATIONS WITH THE OTHER CHAMBER AND THE EXECUTIVE

 

The National Assembly comprises the Senate and the House of Representatives.

 

A - LEGISLATIVE POWERS

 

1) The right to propose legislation

 

No.

 

2) Right of amendment

 

Yes.

 

3) Legislative procedure

 

Bills are first submitted to the House of Representatives then passed on to the Senate for examination.

 

a) Ordinary procedure

 

The Senate has a period of 60 days to examine draft legislation, with the reservation that it may decide, in special cases, to extend the period of examination by thirty days at most. If the Senate has not completed examination of the bill within this period, it is deemed to have adopted it.

 

If the Senate rejects the bill, it is deferred.

 

In the case of amendment, the bill is sent back to the House of Representatives. If the latter accepts the Senate's amendments, the bill is sent to the King for signature. If it does not accept these amendments, a joint committee with equal representation of both chambers is set up.

 

If one of the two assemblies rejects the conclusions of the joint committee, the bill is deferred.

 

A deferred bill returns to the Chamber which re-examines it at the end of period of 180 days from the date it was sent. In this case, if the Chamber adopts by an absolute majority the first bill adopted or that of the joint committee, the bill is considered as having been adopted by the National Assembly and presented to the King for signature.

 

b) Special measures in budgetary matters

 

The Senate has a period of thirty days in which to examine finance bills (which the president of the House of Representatives must have attested are of such character to the Senate when the bill is passed on; failing which, it will not be considered as such).

 

If the House of Representatives has not completed the examination of the proposed finance bill within 105 days, the Senate has 20 days in which to examine the bill with the right to reject or accept it as a whole without the power to modify it. Failing a decision within this period, it is deemed to have adopted it.

 

For final adoption of a deferred bill, the House of Representatives may vote on it again immediately. If it obtains an absolute majority of all representatives, it is considered to have been adopted by the National Assembly.

 

c) Measures specific to certain types of legislation

 

For the adoption of structural bills or bills that the Council of Ministers has indicated in the measures announced in the National Assembly as necessary to the administration of affairs of state, if the House of Representatives has rejected them by less than half the total number of its members, the government may demand a meeting of the two chambers in a National Assembly in order to reconsider the bills (before the vote in plenary session, the Assembly forms a joint committee which must submit a report to it).

 

4) Refusal of promulgation

 

The bill is presented to the King for signature by the Prime Minister within a period of 20 days of it being passed on by the National Assembly.

 

When the King refuses to give his consent to the bill, the National Assembly re-examines the bill whether or not it has been sent back to it within a period of 90 days.

 

If the National Assembly confirms the adoption of the bill by at least a two thirds majority of the total number of members making up the two chambers, the Prime Minister re-presents the bill to the King for signature.

 

If the King does not sign and return it within 30 days, the Prime Minister proceeds to the promulgation of the Act as if the King had signed it.

 

B - SUPERVISORY POWERS

 

The constitution provides that the supervisory powers of the Senate extend to the administration of affairs of state in the following way:

 

- questioning,

 

- general discussion without a vote,

 

- the setting up of committees.

 

The president of the Senate intervenes in parliamentary supervisory procedures.

 

1) Questioning

 

Every member of the Senate has the right to question a minister on matters for which he has responsibility. The minister has the right to refuse to answer if the Council of Ministers considers that the matter should not be revealed for security reasons or in the vital interest of the country. The government response may be written or oral.

 

2) General discussion

 

3/5ths of members of the Senate have the right to submit a motion to arrange a general debate on a government statement. The motion may only be tabled once per session. A vote is not permitted.

 

3) The setting up of committees

 

The Senate has the power to appoint members to form ad hoc committees with a view to investigating or studying any report or subject falling within its powers and duties as an assembly and to report to it.

 

C - DISSOLUTION

 

The Senate cannot be dissolved.

 

V - SPECIAL MEASURES

 

A - CHANGES TO THE CONSTITUTION

 

1) The right to propose changes

 

Draft constitutional legislation can be proposed by 1/5th of the total number of members of the two chambers, concurrently with the Council of Ministers and at least 1/5th of the representatives.

 

2) Procedure

 

The House examines the bill in three readings:

 

- on the first reading, at least half the total number of the members of the two houses must vote in favour of the amendment in principle;

 

- the second reading is devoted to the examination of the articles and require a simple majority for adoption;

 

- the final vote takes place at the third reading, 15 days after the second reading. The adoption of the bill must obtain an absolute majority of all members comprising the two chambers.

 

B - THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE

 

1) The president of the Senate is elected for a period of six years.

 

2) He is vice-president of the National Assembly (whose president is the president of the House of Representatives).

 

3) He has the power to receive a petition for dismissal of the persons mentioned in paragraph V-C-2-a and to forward it to the National Anti-Corruption Commission for consideration.

 

4) He may play a specific role in the supervision of defence when the Senate is fulfilling the function of National Assembly by approving a declaration of war prepared by the government, at the end of a parliament or during the dissolution of the House of Representatives.

 

5) He plays a specific role in the supervision of foreign affairs when the president of the National Assembly is absent or incapable to fulfil such functions.

 

C - POWERS OF APPOINTMENT AND DISMISSAL

 

1) Appointments

 

a) After receiving the views of the Senate, the King makes appointments to the following bodies:

 

- the president and four members of the Electoral Commission,

 

- the 3 Ombudsmen,

 

- the president and ten members of the National Human Rights Commission,

 

- the president and fourteen judges of the Constitutional Court,

 

- the president and eight members of the National Commission against corruption,

 

- the president and nine members of the Revenue Court,

 

- the Controller General of the Revenue Court.

 

b) The Senate may choose:

 

- two members of the Higher State Council of the judiciary governing body,

 

- two members of the Higher State Council of the administrative governing body.

 

c) The Senate has the power to approve certain appointments to:

 

- the supreme administrative court,

 

- the National Commission against corruption.

 

2) Dismissals

 

a) The Senate may dismiss in certain circumstances: the Prime Minister, ministers, deputies, senators, presidents of the Supreme Court of Justice, of the Constitutional Court, of the Supreme Administrative Court, the public prosecutor, the members of the Electoral Commission, Ombudsmen, the judges of the Constitutional Court, the members of the Revenue Court, the judges, prosecutors or senior civil servants subject to the provisions of the basic law against corruption. This can be done on 3 grounds: corruption, high treason, abnormal wealth.

 

b) The Senate may, in certain circumstances, adopt a resolution to dismiss the members of the National Commission against Corruption.

 

* The appointed Senate alone does not have the right to exercise the right of dismissal. A meeting of both chambers in Congress is necessary until 23 March 2000.

 

D - APPROVAL OF IMPORTANT QUESTIONS BY BOTH CHAMBERS MEETING IN A NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

 

- appointment of a Regent (who replaces the King in his absence or incapacity),

 

- succession to the Throne in the event that it falls vacant,

 

- prorogation of the session,

 

- declaration of war (adopted by a minimum two thirds majority of the members of both chambers),

 

- certain treaties (territorial or which require legislation for their implementation).

 

* The Senate alone, as a chamber of the national assembly in the event that the House of Representatives has been dissolved, has the right to use its powers in the following cases:

 

- approval of appointment of a Regent,

 

- approval of succession to the Throne,

 

- approval of prorogation of a session,

 

- approval of the declaration of war.