Thailand’s Legislative Process: Overview
 In this article, the writer is going to clarify the legislative process of Thailand through historical approach since the main structure of Thailand’s legislative process has emerged from conventional practice, not by provisions of laws. Statutory provisions related thereto have been prescribed later on so as to make that process become concrete rules. Some may know that Thailand changed her regime of administration from absolute monarchy to democratic one in the mid of 1932 and may by then presume that legislative process of the two regimes might be drastically different. Actually, the legislative process before and after that change is closely relative. Many dominant characteristics of legislative process of the old regime have been succeeded to the new one and still be practiced until now.
 This article composes of 3 parts. In Part I, the writer is going to portray shortly Thailand’s legislative process in absolute monarchy period prior to the date she had been threaten by western colonization as well as the description of legislative process while Thailand was under pressure of colonization till she adopted democratic regime of government in 1932. The legislative process after the adoption of democratic regime shall be clarified in Part II. It should be noted that the legislative process in this part means the legislative process in ordinary circumstance in which the Legislatives is bicameral. The last part relates to legislative process in such extraordinary situation where the Legislatives is unicameral as in the present time.
 According to Thai archives and those of neighboring countries, Thai people had settled in Suvarnabhumi peninsula for more than 700 years. In ruling the Kingdom, the King was the only one having power to make law. If His Majesty deemed appropriate to have any law for any existing or expected problem, He was going to entrust “A-luck,” a Royal Court officer, to make draft law in accordance with His Majesty’s pleasure. The King sometimes required His noblemen to give advices, comments or recommendations on that problem with a view to make Him an idea in law making or improving the draft law. Consultation with noblemen was however limited only to the matter the King deemed appropriate and had been organized in very rare case. The draft shall become law when His Royal Signature had been given thereto. This tradition nevertheless had been changed by the Royal Command of King Rama IV. His Majesty deemed that it was not fair to the alleged offenders if they were not know that what they had done were prohibited by laws. This initiative was compliant with general legal principle of ignorantia juris non excusat. The King laid down the new practice to guarantee rights and liberties of His subjects under the rule of law that law shall be enforceable when it had been made know to public. Since then, all laws shall come into force upon its publication in the government information publication; the Government Gazette. It could therefore be said that no formal legislative process in the archaic era, except the publication of law in the Government Gazette.
 When the western empires turned their powerful fleets to the East in mid 1800s, King Rama V strongly realized that the only way His country might avert from the claim for colonization of those superpowers was to make friend with them all through diplomatic channel and to modernize Thailand along the same line with the western way so as to make them recognize Thailand as civilized country, not the barbaric one as they claimed. Infrastructure reform had been push seriously. Roads system, irrigation system, electricity system, trains and rails and other infrastructures had been provided systematically and continually. In term of public administration, even though Thailand or Siam at that time still governed by absolute monarchy. King Rama V established 12 Ministries in 1888 to conduct State administration upon functional basis according to British and European models. Legal reform however was atop of the aforesaid. Thai legal system of that day was accused barbaric by the Wests. King Rama V then chose to modernize Thai legal system both substance and procedure upon Civil Law system of the European continent because Thai legal system of that day was familiar with that system and the compilation of Codes took shorter period than the development of Common Law.
 As for legislative power, despite the King still had the supreme power to enact law, King Rama V had decentralized his initiative in law making to the Minister of each Ministry. Each Minister was granted with permission to propose the bill he drafted to the King for His Royal Signature if that bill was deemed necessary for the performance of duties of his Ministry. His Majesty’s decentralization on this matter caused to have the customary rule as to whether the bill has to be drafted by each responsible Ministry.
 For the benefit of deliberation of legislations proposed by all Ministries, King Rama V who enthroned at His young ages established the Council of State upon French Counseil d’Etat model, consisting of His noblemen having knowledge and experience in the administration of State’s Affairs, to give Him advices and recommendations in relation to any bill upon His request. The law on abolition of slavery of 1874 was of the outstanding recommendation of the Council of State. This institution had been dissolved so far since there was no request for consultation.
 The distinctive evolution of Thai law drafting practice emerged when the law drafting agency; the Department of Legislative Redaction (DLR), had been established by King Rama VI along the same line with the Parliamentary Council of the Common Law countries and Law Drafting Division of the Council of State of the European Continent. According to the Royal Proclamation of October 27, 1923, DLR had been established in the Ministry of Justice with the powers and duties as follows:
(1) to make a draft laws upon His Royal Command;
(2) to examine all draft laws made and proposed by all Ministers prior to be submitted to His Majesty for His Signature;
(3) to give advices and recommendations on the point of law to the King upon His request.
 The effect of the Royal Proclamation of 1923 was not just the establishment of law drafting institution, but also set up concrete legislative process for the first time in Thailand. By customary rule, draft law had to be made by the responsible Ministry. After that, it had to be forwarded to DLR for examination. In this regard, DLR which composed of Law Councillors who were Thai elite lawyers and foreign legal consultants of the Royal Thai Government had to examine it in term of suitability of legal policy and legal mechanism. Only the draft examined by DLR shall be presented further to the King for His Royal Signature.
 After June 24, 1932, Thai legislative process had changed on account of the bloodless revolution that turned State administration from absolute monarchy to democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State. Under the new administrative regime, the sovereign power belongs to Thai people and the King as Head of State exercises this power through the National Assembly, the Council of Ministers and the Court. The legislative power as a result thereof shifted from the King to the National Assembly which was bicameral. It consists of the House of Representatives; the lower House, and the Senate; the upper House.
 The changing of State’s administration as mentioned above had direct effect to legislative process. After the Coup of 1932, the term “law” in general meant both Act of Parliament and subordinate legislations. But only Act of Parliament was within the arms’ length of the Legislatives. Subordinate legislation which was enacted in pursuant of the provisions of the Act of Parliament was within the power of the Executive. All draft laws however had to be made by the responsible Minister according to customary rule as ever and they shall be forwarded to the Council of Ministers for approval. If the Council of Ministers approved any draft law, it shall be forwarded further to DLR for consideration. Upon the completion of examination of DLR, the bill or draft Act of Parliament shall be submitted to the National Assembly for approval before presenting to the King for His Signature and then publication in the Government Gazette. In case of subordinate legislation, the examined draft shall be returned to the Council of Ministers for approval of the texts once again. Upon approval of the Council of Ministers, it shall be published in the Government Gazette and became effective. This change becomes constitution convention of Thailand up to the present time regardless of the changing of the Constitution.
 Particularly to the Act of Parliament, the bill may firstly be submitted to the House of Representatives for consideration. The bill passed by the lower House shall then be submitted later to the upper House for consideration. Prior to 1997 Constitution, the bill might be submitted only by the Council of Ministers or members of the House of Representatives. After 1997 Constitution, the right to submit the bill to the House of Representative has extended to the people having the right to vote; at least 50,000 in number, and to the Presidents or Chairpersons of the independent organizations under the Constitution if such bill related to scope of work of their organizations. When the bill passed by the both Houses, it shall be presented to the King for His Signature and the Prime Minister or other Portfolio Minister shall countersign His Royal Command in accordance with the principle “the King can do no wrong”. At the completion of the aforesaid process, the bill shall be published in the Government Gazette and become law.
 It should be noted, according to Thai constitutional convention, that the King may veto the bill passed by the both Houses. In exercising such power, His Majesty may return that bill to the Houses for reconsideration within ninety days or withhold that bill until the period of ninety days has passed. In such case, if the lower House reaffirms that bill, it shall be published in the Government Gazette and become law without the King’s signature. Though there is such constitutional convention, the King has never exercise His veto power.
 The consideration of the bill by each House shall be made in three readings. In the First reading, the principle and justification of the bill shall be discussed amongst the members of the Houses as to whether they should be accepted and then vote for acceptance shall be made. There is constitutional convention that the Council of Ministers shall resign en masse if any bill proposed by the Council of Ministers is objected in the first reading. If the acceptance passed by majority of votes of either House in the first reading, it shall be deliberated further in detail in the Second reading by the Standing Committee or the Extraordinary Committee, as the case may be, depending on the resolution of the Houses. It is constitutional convention that the consideration of the Second reading shall begin after the expiration of the period of seven days. During that period, members of the lower House may submit their motions for revision of any provision of the bill as they think fit.
 In the Second reading, amendment of the text of the bill may be made by the Committee as it deems appropriate, but all motions of the members in relation to that bill shall be taken into consideration. The period for second reading is normally thirty days. The Committee may ask for extension of that period once for any bill other than a money bill, but not exceeding thirty days. When the Committee finishes its consideration, the bill shall be submitted to the full bench of the House for consideration section by section. If a member or even single member of the Committee does not agree with the resolution of the Committee on any issue, he may make a reservation on that issue so as to be debated in the full bench. In this regard, only amended texts and reservation shall be debated and the full bench may revise the amended texts by majority of votes.
 At the completion of section by section consideration in the Second reading, the House shall continue consideration that bill in the Third reading. At this stage, the Speaker of the House shall ask the members as to whether the bill should be enacted as law or not. No debate allows at this stage. The bill shall be approved by simple majority of vote of the members of either House.
 In urgent and necessity case, the Council of Ministers may enact the Emergency Decree which becomes law instantly as if the Act of Parliament after its publication in the Government Gazette. This kind of law shall however be submitted to the both Houses for approval without delay as from the date it comes into force. If either House fails to give approval thereto, that Emergency Decree shall come to an end, but this is not prejudice to any act which have been done prior to its ending date. If that Emergency Decree relates to taxes or State money, it shall be submitted only to the lower House for approval.
 In the case where there is necessary to enact any Act of Parliament for an implementation of any international obligations in which Thailand is a party therewith, the Council of Ministers with proposal of Portfolio Minister shall, prior to submit that bill to the National Assembly for consideration, submit such international obligations to the Joint Sitting of the National Assembly for approval first since Thailand adopts dualism in an acceptance of international obligations to be domestic law. If the Joint Sitting of the National Assembly approves such international obligations, the Council of Minister shall then submit the bill drafted in accordance with that international obligations to the National Assembly for approval. Any act which is contrary to, or inconsistent with, this process is deemed unconstitutionality.
 As for subordinate legislation which may be issued by the Executive in accordance with the provisions of the Act of Parliament, there are many forms of subordinate legislation in Thai legal system, viz. the Royal Decree, Ministerial Regulation, Rule, Regulation, Notification and Determination. The procedure for the issuance of each form of subordinate legislation is a bit differences.
· The Royal Decree shall be proposed by the Minister having charge and control of the execution of each law and shall be approved by the Council of Ministers. After that, it shall be signed by the King, countersigned by Portfolio Minister and published in the Government Gazette.
· The Ministerial Regulation shall be proposed by the Minister having charge and control of the execution of each law and shall also be approved by the Council of Ministers and published in the Government Gazette.
· The other left shall be issued only by the Minister having charge and control of the execution of each law and published in the Government Gazette.
 In 1933, the Department of Legislative Redaction had been transferred from the Ministry of Justice to the Office of the Prime Minister so as to be central legal agency of the democratic government, and it had been renamed as the “Office of the Council of State” by the Council of State Act of 1933. Nevertheless, the Office of the Council of State still had the powers and duties in making draft laws as same as its ancestor, but upon request of the Prime Minister, the Council of Ministers and other government agencies instead of His Majesty.
 The aforesaid legislative process has been used for more than 65 years until there was a significant change in 2003 when the government of that day applied the new public governance into the administration of State’s affaires. As a result of the Royal Decree on Good Public Governance of 2003, whenever the new government takes office and states its policy to the National Assembly, the government shall then prepare the State Administration Plan which is a 4 years strategic plan for that government within ninety days as from the date it states policy to the National Assembly. Thereafter, the government shall, within 120 days as from the date the State Administration Plan comes into force, prepare the Legislative Plan which identify all laws which must be enacted, repealed or revised for the accomplishment of the State Administration Plan. It should be noted that the preparation of the Legislative Plan is not prejudice to the conventional legislative process. It has just a schedule for preparation and submission of a bill to the Parliament.
 An innovation for law making process in Thailand emerged in 2004, particularly to the preparation of the bill or draft Act of Parliament. By resolution of November 24, 2004, the Council of Ministers laid down a mandatory requirement for preparation of the bill that prior to prepare the bill, Portfolio Minister shall conduct regulatory impact assessment (RIA) and the regulatory impact assessment statement (RIS) shall be submitted altogether with the bill for consideration of the Council of Ministers.
 The objective of the RIA is not for deregulation, but better regulation. It has been made along the same line with the RIA of OECD. Portfolio Minister has to clarify the following prerequisites prior to make a proposal for legislation:
What are the objectives and goals of the mission?
Who should be responsible for the mission?
Is legislation required for the achievement of the mission?
Is the proposed legislation duplicated with others?
What are burdens of individual caused by the proposed legislation and Is that legislation value for money?
Are responsible agencies ready for the enforcement of the proposed legislation?
Which agency should be responsible for the proposed legislation?
What are working process and audit method?
Is there guideline for the enactment of subordinate legislation?
Is there public consultation on the proposed legislation and what are the results and responses?
 In 2005, the RIA had been annexed as an integral part of the Regulation on Rules and Procedure for Submission of the Matter to the Cabinet which was issued under the Royal Decree on Submission of the Matter to the Cabinet and the Rules and Procedure for Cabinet’s Meeting of 2005.
 Under such Regulation, once the RIS and draft bill have been made, they shall be submitted to the Council of Ministers for policy approval first. The bill together with its RIS, if approved, shall be forward to the Office of the Council of State for consideration. The Office of the Council of State shall examine the bill of its constitutionality, compatibility with other legislations, suitability of the proposed mechanism and legal form and shall prepare the explanatory memorandum of the examined bill for consideration of the Council of Ministers and the National Assembly. The complete bill and its explanatory memorandum shall be delivered to the Council of Ministers for consideration once again. If the Council of Ministers approves the complete bill this time, the bill shall be forwarded to the government’s whip for political coordination before introducing to the House of Representatives. In many cases however the Council of Ministers always orders the Office of the Council of State to send the complete bill and its explanatory memorandum to the government’s whip directly.
 Additionally, when the 2007 Constitution came into force, it required all who having the right to submit a bill to the Parliament to submit the Explanatory Memorandum to the Parliament altogether with a bill, and the RIS was deemed to be an integral part of the Explanatory Memorandum. This became the new constitutional convention since then.
 In addition to RIA which is an ex ante assessment of the outcome of the bill, the Royal Decree on Review of Law, B.E. 2558 (2015), generally known as the “Sunset Law,” has been issued as a mandatory requirement for all Minister to conduct review of all legislations under his responsibility, both Act of Parliament and subordinate legislation, every five years for the compliance with the dynamic changing of domestic, regional and global situation. In academic perspective, this measure is an ex post evaluation of legislation. Under section 9 of that Royal Decree, all Portfolio Ministers shall conduct law review within the following arenas:
(1) justification and necessity to have such law in current context;
(2) matter to be improved, revised or repealed for the compliance with the changing of national and global situation in term of economics, social, politics, public administrations, science and technology and environment so as to strengthen national competitiveness capability and to enhance sustainable development;
(3) matter to be improved, revised or repealed for the compliance with, or the implementation of, international obligations in which Thailand is bound under international law;
(4) matter to be improved, revised or repealed so as to lessen adverse effect to, or burden of, the public arising from that law;
(5) the supervision or control of activities under the law through committee or commission system, licensing and permission system, registration system or any other similarity shall be employed as necessity;
(6) efficient and effective one stop service;
(7) measure for prevention and suppression of corruption arising from the enforcement of that law;
(8) other matters which are capable to lessen unnecessary burden of the public in living or in practicing occupation, reduce inequality and provide better lives to the public.
 As you may know that political situation of Thailand is fluctuating after she became democratic regime of government 83 years ago. There were many extraordinary situation where the country had been governed by the patriots who were not elected by the general election. The Legislatives during these extraordinary periods were unicameral. The legislative process of the country however still based on the constitutional convention as I have mentioned in Part II above. Laws shall be prepared by the responsible Minister and they shall be submitted to the Council of Ministers for policy approval. After that, the texts shall be examined by the Office of the Council of State. A bill or draft Act of Parliament shall then be submitted to the Legislatives for consideration. The process for consideration in the Legislatives composes of three readings as the constitutional convention thereon. Due to the Legislatives in the extraordinary circumstance is unicameral, the bill passed by the Legislatives in the 3rd reading shall be submitted to the King for His Signature. When the signed bill is countersigned by the responsible Minister and publication in the Government Gazette, it shall come into force.
 The legislative process of Thailand in general seems like legislative process of any other democratic country, but it has specific character of its own. It is a mixed culture between an inheritance of the absolute monarchy of the old days and constitutional conventions which having been evolved through the past years since 1932. Since 2005, the RIA initiative has enhanced more transparency, responsiveness, public consultation and stakeholders’ participation into legislative process. The Sunset Law which has just come into force in the early of September this year (2015) is the newest tool annexed to the process so as to be a mandatory measure for review of legislation to meet with super dynamic change of the World today.
Full-time Law Councilor, Office of the Council of State of Thailand.
Maung Htin Aung, A History of Burma, Thai Edition translated by Petcharee Sumitra., Martin Stuart-Fox, A history of Laos, Thai Edition translated by Chiraporn Vinyaratn.
King Prajadhipok’s Institute, Research on Public Consultation of Stakeholders in Law Making Process of the Executive, 2008, p.12.
1804-1868, generally known as “King Mongkut”.
Office of the Council of State, 60th Year of the Office of the Council of State, 1993, pp.1-4.
1853-1890, generally known as “King Chulalongkorn”.
1880-1925, son of King Rama V, generally known as “King Vajiravudh”.
Published in the Government Gazette, Vol. 40, dated October 28, 1923.
Office of the Council of State, Research on Proposal for Efficiency Enhancement of Thai Legislative Process, 2006, pp.9-11.
The Office of Secretary-General of the Council of Minister is responsible for secretariat work of the Council of Ministers.
It is the duty of the Office of Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers to publish the bill signed by the King and countersigned by Portfolio Minister in the Government Gazette.
There is no specific rules and practices for members of the lower House in making a bill. In practice, members of the lower House make a bill themselves. The Secretariat of the House has no official duty in bill drafting of members.
Under the 2007 Constitution, this number decrease to 10,000. The bills submitted by the people have been prepared by practicing lawyers since the Council of State has duty to prepare draft law for the Executive only.
Council of State’s Legal Opinion No. 413/2526 (1983).
This Act was repealed and replaced by the Council of State Act, B.E. 2522 (1979). The Council of State under the 1979 Act has the powers and duties in law drafting and examining of draft laws as the former organization, but the additional power was adjudicative power. The Council of State had the power to rule the administrative case. This additional power had been transferred to the Administrative Court in 1999 when the Administrative Court had been established by the Act on Establishment of Administrative Court and Administrative Court Procedure, B.E. 2542 (1999). The Council of State has performed its original powers and duties in law drafting and examining of draft laws since then.
Section 13-15 of the Royal Decree on Good Public Governance, B.E. 2546 (2003).
Office of the Council of State, Regulatory Impact Analysis Manual (13th ed.), 2009.
Section 142 paragraph five of the 2007 Constitution.