Thursday, July 02, 2020

Blocking people power closes off path to sustained democracy

Apr 03. 2016
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By Piyaporn Wongruang

We are stuck fast in a “situation”. Few in this country would deny it, but how we view that situation depends on our different interpretations of the charter draft.
And it’s those interpretations that will decide the fate of the country’s plan of escape from the situation when it goes to a referendum this summer.
After nearly six months of hard work, the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) completed the final version of the new charter draft this week and submitted it to the government and top brass in the National Council for Peace and Order.
It also updated the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) and the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) on the draft content, which features 279 articles in total.
Unlike previous charters, the new draft represents an attempt address political challenges that reached a crescendo shortly before the 2014 coup, affecting the country’s security and stability.
With solutions to these challenges repeatedly demanded by those now in power, a new political landscape has emerged out of the charter draft. 
Unlike previous charters, this draft seeks to divide the country’s administration into two “phases”. The first phase follows previous charters in enshrining principal political elements as normal, be they the House of Representatives, the Senate, prime minister or the Cabinet. 
However, the second phase is seen as unprecedented. Placed under a “provisional chapter”, it carves out conditions for a fully appointed Senate and an “outsider” prime minister if the three candidates proposed by political parties are deemed unsuitable.
The CDC has reportedly stressed that designing such an unprecedented political landscape is necessary if we are to deal with unprecedented developments. This sentiment resonates with those in power, who have stated that “the situation” created by past political conflicts must be dealt 
As CDC chief Meechai Ruchupan delivered his speech to NRSA and NLA members on Wednesday in Parliament, he summed this up loud and clear: “This charter is not about the people coming first but the national or public interest” coming first.
 That sentiment prompts a critical question about the charter draft: Can its many unprecedented mechanisms and approaches tackle a “situation” that extends far beyond security issues alone to encompass deep-rooted problems of social inequality that have divided the country?
These problems need to be combated with major reform that can only be sustained by the popular will. Forcing that change from above will not work 
Unfortunately, the charter draft fails to address this sticking point, which was dealt with in the previous draft via the concept of “citizen-based politics”.
Without people’s power boosted, we face the risk of being stuck indefinitely in this situation no matter how well other elements of our national blueprint are designed. 
In the end, reform and people’s empowerment is what this country needs to ensure the government’s goal of national stability. 

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