Charter writers to deliver draft ahead of schedule

1The 21-member committee tasked with writing Thailand’s new constitution said last week they will strive to deliver a draft in 90 days, half the time they have been officially allotted, in response to a call by the Prime Minister for reformers to work quickly to expedite the country’s return to democracy.

The new Constitution Drafting Committee met for the first time last week, following the appointment of Meechai Ruchupan, a former senator with many years of legislative and administrative experience, as chairman. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha selected Meechai for the post, confident that his political skills and legal knowledge would help guide the Committee to work quickly and efficiently.

The Prime Minister told the new Committee that the charter they draft should contain ways to prevent future conflicts, reduce inequality and increase the people’s roles and participation in national administration.

The previous Constitution Drafting Committee was disbanded after the National Reform Council rejected its draft charter. That draft had been strongly criticized by political parties and some civil society groups. Had the Council approved the draft charter, it would have been submitted to the public in a referendum.

A new constitution is an important milepost on the government’s roadmap to building a sustainable democracy. The rejection of the previous version prompted some activists to charge that the government was trying to hold on to power, because national elections cannot take place until a new constitution and related laws are in place.

Prime Minister Prayut denied any intention to cling to power and responded by asking the new group of charter writers to work faster and complete their work before the official six-month deadline.

The Committee will expedite its work by culling and combining good elements from previous charters, said Amorn Wanichwiwat, a spokesman for the Committee. Although he did not specify which of Thailand’s previous constitutions the Committee would work from, the public has generally expressed support for the 1997 and 2007 constitutions. Some members of the new Committee said, however, that they might include parts of the rejected draft that they believed were well thought out.

Chairman Meechai cautioned, however, that it would be difficult to finish the draft before the official deadline, but the Committee members would do their best.

“So we need to finish the work quicker than the given time frame. I don’t know if we will be able to do this, but we’ll have to try,” Meechai said.



Thailand Focus, Week of October 13, 2015
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