Monday, 1 February 2016

New Thai draft constitution extend military junta’s time in power

Thai Human Rights Campaign UK (THRC UK)  is concerned  the draft charter would lead the National Council for Peace and Order —Thailand’s ruling junta — to extend its rule and to secure supreme power.

The first draft charter written by the junta-appointed Constitution Draft Committee (CDC) was rejected in September 2015 by the military-appointed National Reform Council amid claims that the government wanted to extend its term.

January 29, 2016, the final draft of the new constitution, the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) spent altogether 77 working days to craft the draft which contains 270 sections grouped into 15 chapters which include chapter about the duties of the Thai people, the chapter regarding the Monarchy, the chapter regarding the duties of the state, the chapter regarding independent organizations, the chapter regarding local administration and provisional chapter among others.

CDC who was directly appointed by the junta and is chaired by Meechai Ruchupan, is planning to ban any candidate from competing in parliamentary elections under the guise of fight against corruption but in reality to eliminate some candidates who might defeat their stooges.

The new constitution is meant to be a tool against any political opponent to the junta’s candidates and to undermine competitiveness in the next general election

The draft body wrote that the House of Representatives would consist of 500 seats — 350 single-member districts and 150 elected from party lists. Candidates for the post of prime minister would be selected by each political party, but did not necessarily need to be either members of parliament or political party members. Civil servants and individuals who had been ousted from their positions would not be eligible.

The draft charter also stated that parliament’s 200 Senate seats will be chosen by a new indirect election system, which allows people to freely choose qualified individuals from 20 groups and nominate them as candidates from district level to national level

THRC UK is concerned about key elements undermining the democratic as follows:
  • the 200 member House of Senators will be entirely unelected. Senators will be appointed, in a process as yet unclear, but have significant powers to screen and veto legislation already endorsed by the elected members of the House of Representatives, thereby controlling and monitoring the executive powers of government. Additionally, unelected Senators will appoint judges of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts.
  • Any candidate that has been charged with ‘corruption’ will be barred from becoming an elected member of the House of Representatives. This neatly excludes former Prime Ministers of the Pheu Thai party, Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra, who both face lifetime bans from participation in Thai politics by the military junta. The exclusion of the two strongest candidates opposing the military junta will therefore undermine democratic competition in any future elections.
  • The independent constitutional organizations, the new draft charter provides them with more power, as it clearly states what each body may do.
  • Constitutional immunity for the military, their actions,  and any use of force. Military courts have judicial power to try and judge cases concerning civilian offences.
In April 2015, the junta leader replaced martial law with a constitutional provision that effectively provides unlimited and unaccountable powers. Article 44 is actually worse than martial law as it allows Gen Prayut to execute key decisions without the oversight of a court. 

The new constitution is supposed to be approved in a national referendum.  If the draft charter is approved in a referendum in July this year, the country’s next general election could be held in November 2017Until it is ratified, the military government retains its substantial powers.

The longer the NCPO stayed in power, the more damage would be done to the country.

Download press release here

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