Reform council rejects draft charter, new draft ahead
Thailand’s political path took a complicated turn last week when the National Reform Council voted to reject the draft constitution, necessitating the imminent formation of a new body to write a new draft of a national charter that will be acceptable to the people of Thailand.
The National Reform Council voted not to accept the draft constitution by a tally of 135 to 105. The Council was dissolved following the vote, as preordained in the government’s road map to restore democracy. A new reform assembly will be appointed shortly, as will a new 21-member committee to write an improved draft constitution. The committee will have 180 days to produce a new draft.
That draft will be submitted to the next reform assembly for consideration, followed by a national referendum in which the public will vote to accept or reject the new constitution. The period needed to produce a new draft will delay national elections for a new government by about six months, pushing their most likely date to the first half of 2017.
Several analysts attributed the rejection to disapproval of some contentious clauses such as allowing an unelected prime minister and the creation of a special council with the power to intervene and administer the country if the government is deadlocked an unable to function effectively during a time of crisis.
Although several opinion polls suggested that the public would have voted for the constitution, virtually all of Thailand’s political parties and several civil society groups and academics had criticized the draft because of its contentious clauses. Some had also said the new electoral system it prescribed was too complex and should have been simplified.
Although Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had voiced support for the draft, many members of the National Reform Council with military backgrounds voted against it. The Prime Minister had said that military members of the Council would be free to vote their conscience and would not be ordered to either approve or reject the charter. Of the 247members of the Council, 29 were military or police officers.
The new charter drafting committee will be formed within 30 days. The head of the previous 36-member drafting assembly, legal scholar and adviser to several governments Bowornsak Uwanno, said he would take responsibility for the failure of the draft to pass and would not participate in drafting the new version.
He expressed regret over the no vote, saying that the controversies over the contentious clauses had overshadowed the fact that the draft charter had been written to give average citizens more power and participation in governing the country.
Thailand Focus September 8, 2015
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