Thailand New Constitution of 2007

21 08 2007

 

 

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My work allowed me to organise a few forums on Thailand New Constitution in Bangkok (central), Nakorn Srithammarat (south) and Khon Kean (northeast) from late July to early August 2007. Each panel invited a member of constitutional drafting committee, academic and people representative. Listening to a discussion at each forum, one can easily guess how the outcome of the referendum would be. People in Bangkok especially the academic were rather critical of a new draft while people in the south did not concern whether a new constitution was drafted by the military regime but saw it as a way out for the current political stalemate. People in the Northeast were not critical of a new draft, they did not even bother to look at it. What they knew was that they had to vote NO to it. It was the way to prove their loyalty to the former ruling power and local leaders.

In the beginning, I thought about accepting a new constitution unconditionally. I thought, just like many, that it would pave the way for a fresh election and a solution to the political revenge between the old and new regime. However, as I had several chances to talk to people about the necessity of having a new constitution and later a chance to read the content of it, I began to realise that the two issues are separable. The government could use the 1997 Constitution and set a date for an election. It was absolutely unnecessary to draft a new one. The reason they called for a referendum was to prove to the former ruling power that they had and remain to have the public support.

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More recently, I was invited to give a talk on the same issue in Malaysia. I titled my presentation “Thailand New Constitution: Response to Thaksin’s Democratic Rule?”. This was what I explained to the audience that night.

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Demonstration led by People Alliance for Democracy from 2005 to 2006 indirectly or directly prompted the Army to intervene to unlock the political stalemate. The Army provided the reasons that the ousted Premier Thaksin had centralised too much power, abused judiciary system, interfered in independent organisations and in the media. For a short while, people were happy that the Army came to rescue them. However, they later realised they have created another devil in the country. The military regime abrogated the 1997 Constitution and selected the Constitution Drafting Assembly (from 2000 down to 200 and then cut down to 100) and 35 members of Constitutional Drafting Committee (25 selected by the CDA and 10 appointed by CNS) to draft a new constitution.

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New constitution is a response to past situation. Thaksin was accused of using his office to benefit his business interests i.e. Shin Corporation and iTV. Therefore, the new constitution bars a prime minister and any spouse or children from owning major stakes in private companies and from having a stake in media groups.

Selling shares to foreign companies was considered unethical – Shin Corporation to Temasek Holding – therefore, ethical violations becomes impeachable offence and the charter would make it easier to bring no confidence motions against the premier.

As Thaksin liked to negotiate the FTA secretly, the new constitution conditions that the entire cabinet and all lawmakers would have to disclose all of their assets and would also make it tougher to pass free trade deals by requiring public hearing in any international treaty.

If elected Senators were not credible, they should not be all elected. Therefore, almost half of senators will be selected 76 elected and 74 appointed, total 150. Senior govenrment officials and the judiciary would control a committee which would appoint 74 out of 150 senators. However, since the senators have the power to expel senior political officers, was it fair to authorise appointed people to out elected representative?

Since Thaksin was seen as too powerful as a prime minister and was too difficult to get rid of, a new constitution limits the prime minister to two four year terms.

Thaksin claimed that he has 16 million votes which legitimized his government. As such, the new constitution changes a single constituency for the party list election to the 80 party list elected through 8 clusters of provinces.

At the end of my preparation for the above presentation, I have my answer whether to accept or reject a new constitution.

 

 


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4 responses

22 08 2007
Prem

Very interesting. Thanks for mentioning the changes, we now have a better grasp about what’s going on. So, what’s your next move?

23 08 2007
drbusarin

After the referendum last Sunday, people are now looking forward to a fresh election, presumably on 23rd December as mentioned by Prime Miniter Surayud Chulanont. Although election seems to be coming, there is no gurantee that Democrat Party which is the largest political party so far can form a coalition government with other smaller parties. The former 111 Central Committee members of Thai Rak Thai are now busy forming new parties. They know that they still have a strong support in the Northeast. If they can win all the seats containing 130 seats in the area plus some seats in the North, they also have a chance to form a coalition government. The new constitution allows 480 seats to be contested in the entire country. If that happens, Democrat Party will become an opposition and there will be very difficult for them to breath as a ruling power for a long time. All the military efforts would be a waste. It will be a true test in the upcoming election for the Democrat Party. One interesting factor to take into consideration is the three organic acts on political parties, election and election commission which will be passed by the parliament shortly. After we know the conditions written in those acts, we can then predict our political future.

24 08 2007
Prem

So, which party will you be running for? 🙂

27 08 2007
Nalawan

So, we wait and see what conditions will be written in those organic laws.

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