Uncategorized Junta-appointed Thai council debates draft charter

Junta-appointed Thai council debates draft charter


Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha
Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha

(AA) – Thailand’s junta-appointed National Reform Council began debating Monday a draft constitution that has been criticized as aiming to diminish the influence of parties on both sides of the political spectrum.

The council’s 250 members will discuss the 315-articles until Sunday, before proposing amendments to the military-appointed drafting committee, who will have sixty days to adjust the blueprint charter.

The National Reform Council will then vote on whether to approve the draft, which if rejected, will lead to the dissolution of both organizations and the drafting process starting from scratch.

Among the criticisms pouring in over the draft, one of the most scathing came from a former lawmaker from the Puea Thai party, the core party of the government of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra that was overthrown in a coup last May.

“It is not a hospital [for the political system], that the drafters have conceived, but rather a prison,” Chaturon Chaisang, who is currently undergoing a military court trial for defying the junta’s orders, wrote on his Facebook page Sunday.

“The main problem with the draft is that it is not democratic, it does not assure legal justice, it does not give power to the people, but instead it is building a kind of permanent dictatorship,” added the politician.

The draft includes measures that will limit the power of elected politicians, such as a clause that says Senate members will be selected from pools of candidates nominated by ex-politicians and high-ranking civil servants (including military officers).

Another clause proposes a German-style mixed-member proportional representation system for the elections, which would give more weight to small parties and result in coalition governments of multiple partners, as was the case in pre-1997 Thailand.

Chaisang wrote in his post that under the draft, “elections will have no meaning, because the people will not be able to decide anything. After the elections, the government will not be able to administer the country and will not be able to answer the desires of the people.”

He warned that Thailand “will lag behind and be immersed in conflict. There will be no stability.”

The draft’s content was also criticized by the deputy-leader of the Democrat Party – Puea Thai’s arch nemesis – albeit in less blunt terms.

“Even though political parties have tried to warn the drafters that they have strayed too far from an acceptable framework, our opinions received very little attention,” Nipit Intrasombat told local media.

“If the government cannot improve the economy, it will be attacked by its opponents. People will lose faith and the negative sentiment will affect confidence in national reform as well.”

During a recent presentation at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Bangkok, the drafting committee’s chairman, legal expert Bowornsak Uwanno distributed a document that explained the blueprint charter. It used expressions like “parliamentary dictatorship,” the “Mafioso like influence” of politicians and “authoritarian majority” to refer to past governments.

“Politicians have been notoriously untrustworthy, non-transparent, and seem lacking in morality, ethics and honesty,” the document said in its introduction. It added, “the rich get richer through bought influence while the poor lose whatever they had.”

Uwanno insisted that the current draft charter was the first to really “empower citizens,” referring to a clause allowing 10,000 persons to propose a law.

“Everything that any citizen ever felt the need to fight for has been granted by this constitution and all everyone has to do is to own, embrace, and protect this constitution as if their life depended upon it,” concludes the document.

The draft also proposes the establishment of a national ethics assembly that will “monitor and scrutinize the ethical conducts of senior political-office holders,” including the prime minister, cabinet members and MPs.

If the conduct of some politicians is found wanting, they will be placed on a “recall list,” and voters will have a say during the next general elections on whether they want the listed figures to be their representatives.

The most controversial clause is one proposing that a non-MP can become prime minister upon receiving the vote of two-thirds of the House of Representatives.

The issue is sensitive as a previous attempt by the military to insert such a clause in 1992 allowed coup maker General Suchinda Kraprayoon to become premier and triggered protests and bloodshed.

The current draft charter also stipulates that MPs cannot concurrently hold a post as minister.

According to a nationwide survey by the Office of National Statistics published last month, a majority of respondents did not agree with at least some points of the draft charter. 

Of the 5,800 respondents, 70 percent said they did not want a non-elected prime minister.

The drafting committee has not consulted civil society organizations or political parties on the draft, while the junta refuses to bow to demands from all sides that the draft should be submitted to a popular referendum.

Thailand’s previous constitution was abolished after the junta seized power May 22, following massive anti-government demonstrations calling for “reforms before elections” and for the resignation of Shinawatra’s government.

After taking over “to avoid bloodshed” – over 30 people had died during the demonstrations – the junta also suspended both houses of parliament and imposed martial law, which was replaced earlier this month with a decree granting junta chief-cum-Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha “absolute power.”

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