Meechai refuses to rule out all-powerful body in charter

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation


NLA proposes crisis panel similar to projected NSRRC.

THE CHIEF constitution drafter yesterday declined to confirm that the new draft charter would not include a controversial crisis body that has been suggested by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA).

Meechai Ruchupan, chairman of the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC), added that drafters were willing to write a charter in line with any convincing and reasonable suggestions.

After two weeks of reviewing the charter draft and gathering comments, key political entities – including the NLA, the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) and the National Reform Council (NRC) – yesterday submitted their official comments on the draft.

Among the suggestions put forward by the NLA is that there be a crisis-coping mechanism to allow Parliament to judge whether circumstances constitute a crisis. After that step, the Constitutional Court could convene a meeting of military and police chiefs, presidents of independent agencies, and others, which would have crisis-management authority to restore peace and order.

Such a mechanism is similar to the National Strategic Reform and Reconciliation Committee (NSRRC) proposed in the previous draft by Borwornsak Uwanno’s drafting panel, which was rejected by the NRC. It was deemed by many to be “a state within the state” as such a mechanism could rule over the executive branch. The NSRRC proposal is believed to have been the primary reason why the former draft was rejected.

Meechai, however, said he did not know whether the new charter draft would also include an NSRRC-like body. He said the drafters would have to first review all the comments and proposals before making any decision, adding that they would follow any convincing, constructive and reasonable motions. He said the CDC would heed all opinions offered both officially and unofficially and make adjustments accordingly, provided criticism did not involve the CDC rewriting the whole draft.

“As far as I am concerned, the most worrying point the private sector has is about rights and liberties. There, we can manage to adjust. It is not difficult. Some asked that we add a word or two [into the rights and liberties chapter]. That we can definitely do,” the CDC chairman said before the panel’s daily meeting. On the electoral system, many have voiced a preference for the two-ballot system, Meechai said, adding that the drafters will discuss the matter again. “We will see if it means we have to rewrite the whole draft.”

The CDC will also consider adding a reform chapter into the charter draft as requested by the NSRC and the Cabinet. Drafters are very open to hearing all suggestions, Meechai said, adding that they also heeded casual comments made online.

As for the comments from the political sector, Meechai said the Democrat Partywas the only entity submitting official proposals.

Meanwhile, the NRSA yesterday resolved to call on the CDC to clearly require reforms in the draft constitution, as suggested by their 12 committees on how the draft should be revised.

At its meeting, the assembly voted 269-143, with one abstention, to submit the suggestion to the drafters.

Also yesterday, representatives of the now-defunct NRC submitted their commentary on the draft, pointing to what they perceived as weaknesses, such as the fact that the constitution would empower the state while undermining the people.

Former NRC members believe that under the current draft, the government would rule over citizens in every dimension as stipulated in the chapter on government duties, with the people “minor actors with only supporting roles”. They said such a motion would undermine people’s participation in politics.

For them, what was more worrisome was the fact that people would not be able to file lawsuits against the state if it did not follow constitutional stipulations in the directive policies.

They also expressed concern over an absence of clauses on “human dignity” in the rights and liberties chapter, though they understood the drafters had transferred many points to the chapter on government duties instead.

Banthoon Setsirote, a former member of the previous CDC, said it was necessary that the constitution stipulated clearly what rights people had. When something is a right, it is automatically the state’s duty to adhere to that, he said, adding that it did not work the other way around as the current CDC had written.

Among other suggestions, former reformers expressed their wish to see the constitution focus more on power decentralisation to strengthen the public and communities in general, and not only for Bangkok.

They would also like to see this so-called “anti-corruption constitution” mandate that candidates for political office must declare their three most recent annual tax records to make sure they were not unusually rich or involved with tax fraud.

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