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Junta looks divided over whether CDC should reconsider revisions

Mar 23. 2016
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By THE NATION

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DEPUTY PRIME Minister and National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) deputy chairman Prawit Wongsuwan yesterday insisted the NCPO wanted ex-officio military leaders to have Senate seats, although Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam was apparently sat
Prawit maintained that the six top military leaders should be given ex-officio Senate posts to safeguard the charter and to resolve political conflicts without resorting to another coup. 
Prawit made the remarks after the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) decided on Tuesday that the draft charter would stipulate the selection of 200 senators in the 250-member Senate who would sit for a five-year transitional period, as had been requested by the “four rivers of power”, including the NCPO.
Fifty senators will be cross-elected by 20 professional groups. 
“I have no conflicts with the CDC. I only present the government and the NCPO’s proposals. It has nothing to do with meeting halfway,” said Prawit. “We want a five-year transitional period for the sake of the country and it is not about bargaining. The non-elected Senate proposal is aimed at achieving the reform roadmap and drive the country towards full-fledged democracy.”
Another source in the NCPO said the issue needed to be discussed further.
However, Wissanu said the CDC’s resolution was close to what the NCPO had requested and it should be acceptable, adding that he did not have a problem with the CDC’s decision to keep 50 indirectly elected senators. 
“The CDC did its best to strike a balance between its inventions and the NCPO’s recommendations,” he said. 
Wissanu said the charter draft would be more likely to pass a public referendum because people want an election, which the NCPO insists will be held next year. 
CDC chairman Meechai Ruchupan said the CDC had a clear rationale when it revised the charter draft, especially regarding the point on selected senators, so he believed it would not be further revised. But that decision would depend on the NCPO, he said. 
In regards to the ex-officio posts for military leaders, Meechai said the CDC had refrained from specifying the positions of military leaders as requested, instead leaving the selection to a committee that would be appointed by the NCPO. 
In regard to party lists of three candidates for prime minister, Meechai said the CDC had agreed to allow the list to be waived in a joint parliamentary session, but with conditions. 
However, the CDC insisted that senators could not vote for the prime minister. Meechai said the CDC would review the wording of the relevant section, but he added that it wouldn’t be further revised. 
National Legislative Assembly president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, however, called on the CDC to re-evaluate its decision and heed the NCPO’s recommendations, especially about the ex-officio senators. 
Meanwhile, key political figures reacted negatively to the CDC’s decisions. 
Former deputy prime minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said he personally rejected the CDC’s revisions, and added that the Pheu Thai Party disapproved of many points in the draft such as the single-ballot system and the deprivation of people’s rights, regardless of the latest revisions. 
The Pheu Thai Party will make an official announcement giving its reasons why it rejects the draft, he said. 
Deputy Democrat Party leader Ong-art Klampaiboon said he believed the CDC had tried to avoid conflict with the NCPO, although it did maintain certain elements of its original charter. He added that the CDC’s decision was not yet final because the NCPO might push new proposals or insist that the CDC accept its ideas.
Former Constitution Drafting Committee member Banjerd Singkaneti said the CDC’s resolution clearly showed that it gave particular weight to the NCPO’s requests as it had agreed to most changes.
Banjerd said regardless of the CDC’s decision, there would be fierce opposition from politicians and public figures opposed to elements of the charter, especially those guided by the NCPO.
He said the draft was still worrying because it did not offer a way forward given the current political impasse.
Jatuporn Prompan, head of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), slammed Meechai’s draft, claiming it would lead the country back to 1978 as elected parties would be sidetracked as “spare parts” in the political system. 

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