THAI LEGISLATIVE PROCESS - Office of the Council of State
Thai Legislative Process
According to Thai constitutional convention, the Council of Ministers, members of the Houses and eligible voters are empowered to lodge a bill to the National Assembly for consideration. In reality, more than 90 per cent of the bills are submitted by the Council of Ministers.
BILLS INITIATED BY THE EXECUTIVE
Types of Bills
The Council of Ministers, as an entity entrusted with executive power, has the power to propose two types of bills to the National Assembly for consideration, namely: (1) a normal bill and (2) a draft Emergency Decree. The former has to be approved by the National Assembly, signed by the King and published in the Government Gazette before being promulgated as an Act and having force of law. While the majority of bills proposed by the Executive are normal bills, under emergency circumstances where it is deemed necessary to enact a law to maintain national or public safety or national economic security, or to avert public calamity, the Council of Ministers is vested with the power to propose a draft Emergency Decree directly to the King for His signature and to have the draft promulgated as an Emergency Decree without obtaining prior approval from the National Assembly. However, since an Emergency Decree is enacted only to promptly respond to eminent danger or threat, the Council of Ministers is required to present the Emergency Decree to the National Assembly for consideration without delay in the subsequent sitting of the National Assembly. In the case where the Emergency Decree is approved, it shall permanently have force of law, but where it is rejected by the Assembly, it shall consequently lapse.
The legislative process commences after the Council of Ministers has taken office and stated its policies to the National Assembly. The Minister in charge of each policy is to then direct the responsible agency to draft the bill in accordance with the policy or administrative need and submit it to the Council of Ministers via the Secretariat of the Cabinet for policy approval. At this stage, the Council of Ministers does not need to approve the texts of the bill, but it is required that its approval is given to the principle of the bill. The principle-approved bill is then sent to the Office of the Council of State for technical examination. Normally, the bill will be examined by the Law Committee specialised in the field of law related to the content of the bill. After completion, the examined bill will be sent to the Council of Ministers again for approval on the texts of the bills. Upon approval of the Council of Ministers, the bill is then introduced to the Whip and thereafter to the National Assembly for further consideration. After the National Assembly has given its consent, the bill will be submitted to the King for His Royal Signature, and then sent back to the Secretariat of the Cabinet which is responsible for the publication of the bill in the Government Gazette, after which the bill will come into force as an Act.
State Administration Plan and Legislative Development Plan
It is worth noting that after stating its policies to the National Assembly, the Council of Ministers is required by the Royal Decree on Good Public Governance, B.E. 2546 (2003) to direct relevant agencies to implement, within 90 days, the government policies to be the State Administration Plan (SAP) which identifies strategies, objectives and tasks to be undertaken for the achievement of the stated policies. When the SAP is published in the Government Gazette, the Office of the Council of State and the Office of the Prime Minister will jointly make a Legislative Plan which composes of names and contents of bills which directly support the strategies, objectives and missions specified in the SAP, including the names of the agency responsible for each bill, as well as a timeline for processing the bills.
Apart from the SAP, the Legislative Development Plan (LDP) is also prepared for the purpose of reforming existing laws to meet with present social and economic conditions. In this regard, all Ministries and Departments are assigned to review all existing legislation, both Acts of Parliament and subordinate legislation under their responsibilities as to whether any of which should be amended or repealed for the compliance with the current situation. The responsible agency is to then name such legislations in its LDP and submit them to the Plan Scrutiny Committee via the Secretariat of the Cabinet for further approval.
According to the normal procedure, the bills prepared under these plans will be sent to the Office of the Council of State after the principle of the bill is approved by the Council of Ministers. Upon completion, the Office of the Council of State will send the examined bill back to the Council of Ministers who will subsequently submit it to the Whip and the National Assembly.
BILLS INITIATED BY THE MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE
Under constitutional convention, a group of members of the House of Representatives, normally 20 members, are granted the power to present a bill to the National Assembly for consideration. If the bill is approved by the National Assembly, it will subsequently be submitted to the King and published in the Government Gazette, and enter into force as an Act. Although members of the House of Representatives enjoy the power to propose a bill, they are prohibited from initiating a money bill to the National Assembly without prior consent of the Council of Ministers. While the definition of a money bill is given by the provisions of the Constitution, generally speaking, it means a bill which contains a provision related to taxes, currency or State’s budget and properties. In practice, when a money bill is proposed by members of the House to the Council of Ministers for consent, the Council of Ministers normally sends the bill in question to the Office of the Council of State for providing legal opinion on the bill.
BILLS INITIATED BY ELIGIBLE VOTERS
Since 1997, a number of eligible voters have also been granted rights to introduce a bill directly to the National Assembly; a bill introduced this way must be related to rights and liberties of the people or fundamental State policies. However, after more than ten years of its implementation, this method of proposing a draft law has proven to be impractical since the bills hardly survived in the National Assembly due to a lack of technical and political support from the government.
Although the Office of the Council of State has no direct role and responsibility in the proposal of bills by eligible voters, if the Council of Ministers deems appropriate, it may direct the Office of the Council of State to deliver legal opinion in connection with a particular bill.