By KASAMAKORN CHANWANPEN
FOUR MILLION sets of the constitution draft and an explanation of the referendum’s additional question along with their abridgements will be ready for distribution on May 23, Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said yesterday.
The Election Commission would, meanwhile, try to find out in its meeting on April 18 what people can and cannot do ahead of the referendum as several of these points have not yet been clear to the public, he said.
Somchai met with the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) and National Legislative Assembly (NLA) yesterday, and they resolved to give the CDC 39 stages nationwide to explain the draft charter. However, the meeting did not touch upon plans to set up stages for the public to express their opinions. They have also not yet agreed whether the NLA will join the CDC to explain the proposed additional question, which asks whether senators can join MPs in choosing the next prime minister.
Somchai said the referendum would be advertised on television in 10 different sessions, where both the NLA and the CDC will explain the draft charter to the public.
Meanwhile, the CDC completed two summaries of the draft charter yesterday and handed them to the EC in |line with the 2014 interim charter’s |regulations.
CDC chairman Meechai Ruchupan told the press yesterday that the summaries would help voters understand the essence of the draft charter before they make a decision for or against it in the referendum.
The first summary is 35 pages long and explains the key elements of the draft charter, including citizens’ rights and freedoms, political mechanisms, and the origins of parliamentarians.
The second summary is more precise, comprising 14 pages and explaining with illustrations the draft charter’s 10 essential points, including the protection of rights and freedoms, anti-corruption mechanisms, and national reform plans.
The chief charter writer said voters who did not have the time to go through the entire draft charter could study these summaries and still get a picture of what the political structure would look like. However, those wishing to study the charter in detail could download the full version from the CDC’s website or get a printed version from CDC or EC offices, he added.
Should questions arise, voters can submit them to the drafters and they will try to respond to as many queries as possible, Meechai said, adding that he hoped the summaries would reach as many voters as possible, but distributing them would be the responsibility of the EC.
Meanwhile, National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) secretary-general Teerachai Nakavanich said the Army was taking steps to boost understanding of the draft charter because it was the first step towards democracy.
“[We] ask that everyone try to understand how this constitution is different from others and come out to exercise your rights,” he said. “I think the [charter] writers aim to introduce reforms, so [Thailand] can move forward and be free of corruption without anyone exploiting the policies and taking advantage of the people,”
The draft charter has provisions for strict penalties against corruption, including the seizure of family assets, Teerachai said.
In his capacity as Army chief, he said he encouraged military personnel and their families to exercise their voting rights so others could acknowledge that the military was also democratic.
He said the current draft was perhaps the best constitution the country would ever have. He added that he hoped it would stay in place at least until reforms were completed, but that it could be amended after that.
Separately, the Cabinet yesterday earmarked Bt3 billion for the EC to |proceed with the referendum, government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said.
Sansern added Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-chai chose to stay tight-lipped at the Cabinet meeting on what happens if the public rejects the draft charter, adding that the Cabinet chose not to address this issue either.
“The PM has said many times that he does not want to offer alternatives because that would only distract the |voters,” he said.