OPPONENTS AND SUPPORTERS OFFER IDEAS ON NEXT CONSTITUTION
SUPPORTERS and opponents of the rejected charter draft gave suggestions yesterday on what a new group of drafters should do to prevent a new constitution from being rejected, in a referendum.
They agreed that a new draft did not have to be written from scratch, as widely accepted good points in the previous constitutions – and even in the rejected draft – could be incorporated into the new one.
The draft was voted down by a majority of members of the National Reform Council (NRC) on Sunday.
Pheu Thai Party deputy secretary-general Chavalit Vichayasuthi said yesterday that by incorporating good points from older charters, the new group of drafters could save a lot of time.
Chavalit suggested that the maximum 180 days designated for drafting could be reduced considerably this way. He also said that organic laws for the new constitution could also be drafted at the same time as the new charter was being written.
He said that with reduced time for a new charter draft, the original roadmap for Thailand’s return to democracy would be affected only slightly.
“This way, the international community will have less concern that the NCPO may want to stay on in power,” he said, referring to the National Council for Peace and Order.
Suriyasai Katasila, a political activist-turned-lecturer, said the new 21-member Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) should focus on the pros and cons of the rejected charter draft in writing a new draft.
“I don’t know where they’ll start if they have to rework the whole thing,” said Suriyasai, who is former spokesperson of the yellow-shirt People’s Democratic Alliance (PAD) and now a lecturer at Rangsit University.
He suggested that members of the new CDC should work in unison. The former CDC’s formation was a worthy one, he said, considering the members’ mixed backgrounds and genders. But they were split on opinions and didn’t work properly as a team on the draft.
Selection of the new CDC’s members would also prove if the NCPO worked for the country or for themselves, he added.
“If they are of low profile or rather look like the NCPO’s nominees, society won’t accept them and their future work won’t be [good for] the people,” Suriyasai said.
The community must have more participation in writing the new draft, he added. For example, universities could be platforms for public hearings on the draft, as well as the Interior Ministry, whose mechanisms could promote opinion sharing at local levels. Opinions should also be gathered from civil society groups. He also suggested a clear separation between the charter and reforms.
“There’s now no clear working timeline on reforms, unlike that on the charter. If we mix two things together, we have to start drafting the new charter again and again. That will eventually become laborious and not innovative like it should be.”
Democrat Party politician Boonyod Suktinthai said yesterday that new drafters should reflect more diversity. The committee should comprise people who understand the principles of democracy and are open to the general public.
“The drafters should start by having more positive perceptions vis-a-vis politicians from the very first,” said Boonyod, a former MP.
As individuals who will be part of the new political rules, politicians should be able to participate and share perceptions about the content of the charter draft – albeit without being part of the drafting committee. Boonyod said making the process more accessible to the wider public would help prevent any strange clauses emerging in the draft. One example was creation of the National Strategic Reform and Reconciliation Committee (NSRRC), which could lead to overlapping duties between the government and the NSRRC.
Attasit Pankaew, a political science lecturer at Thammasat University, suggested that the drafting process should be accessible from the beginning.
“There should be a channel which people can participate in more than [just] listening,” Attasit said yesterday.
He said people on the committee should also consist of representatives from across the political spectrum in order to reflect different viewpoints in all schools of thought that exist in society.
Public voices should be heard from the first stage, Attasit said. They should also be informed about the overview of the draft. All in all, the general public should be able to access the planning and realisation of the draft.
Meanwhile, Rosana Tositrakul, a former member of the NRC, which was automatically dissolved after voting on the charter draft on Sunday, said a new constitution should ensure a balance of power between the government and the people. There should be a mechanism to ensure scrutiny of government in order to help prevent corruption.
She said the powers-that-be made a mistake in allowing the majority of NRC members to vote down the final charter draft written by the Constitution Drafting Committee.
“They may think that rejecting the draft could allow the government to stay in power longer. Without the NRC, they will have nobody to oppose them like before. But they will face reaction in the future,” Rosana said.
Nattawut Saikuar, a Pheu Thai politician who is also a red-shirt leader, said the rejection of the draft pointed to the NCPO’s failure in regard to politics.
“They appointed the drafters, their people drafted the constitution and their people also rejected the draft,” he said. “Nobody opposed what they were doing but still they failed. Are they going to take responsibility for that?”