By NITIPOL KIRAVANICH
THE NATIONAL Council for Peace and Order and the Cabinet of Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha have put their own constitution drafters in a difficult spot.
Last Thursday, the NCPO, together with the Cabinet, agreed to support the amendment of the 2014 provisional constitution that allowed for the dissolution of the junta-appointed National Reform Council (NRC). Both had earlier voted on whether to accept or reject the draft charter, to be replaced by a new reform group called the “Reform Movement Council” that would be appointed by Prayut.
The joint Cabinet-NCPO meeting also decided to extend the Constitution Drafting Committee’s term for another 30 days, but the CDC will be dissolved if the NRC votes to reject its draft, in which case it will be replaced by a new 21-member set of charter drafters.
This also means Prayut and his Cabinet as well as the NCPO will automatically stay on to oversee a new round of charter drafting.
Any amendment of the provisional charter affects the CDC as it now gives the NRC more independence in voting to reject the CDC’s draft. Earlier there were reports suggesting many NRC members had planned their political careers ahead and voting to approve the draft charter could be a method of paving their way to future political positions.
Many reform panels – such as political and legal – had proposed amendments to many charter articles. They also strongly voiced disapproval of the draft if its authors did not make the amendments they suggested, and threatened to abort the draft charter through their negative vote.
Nevertheless, other NRC members indicated they would endorse the draft charter because they wanted to continue working in related positions.
Such deals are now off the table because of the interim stipulation to dissolve the NRC no matter how the vote turns out.
With the guarantee that the term of the NRC will surely end after the vote, many of its members are now using it as leverage to demand and threaten the CDC, should it fail to alter the draft in accordance with what the NRC members proposed.
The CDC has insisted all along on certain principles such as allowing for an “outsider prime minister, a unique way of selecting and electing senators, and the introduction of a few new independent organisations under the constitution. Some of these principles were opposed by many NRC members.
Things have now turned upside down because the NRC members could not care less about their political positions and terms.
The CDC now has to care more about the NRC’s views and the charter drafters have to be more accommodating to the reformers if they want to ensure a high chance that their work won’t be torpedoed in the end by the NRC.
This week, CDC spokesman Kamnoon Sidhisamarn admitted that after the committee scrutinised all proposals from relevant agencies that it was likely that more than 10 topics or 100 articles would have to be altered to please all sides.
Kamnoon explained there it was now strongly possible that the CDC had been intimidated by the NRC and might be willing to put some of its principles aside.
All these difficulties were attributed to the joint decision of the NCPO and|the military, and both the NRC and the CDC may have felt betrayed by their superiors.