It may seem difficult to accept right now, but the many and emotional verbal and physical battles may result in a far better democracy for Thailand. There are many opinions about the brouhaha between the parliament and the Constitution Court. But whether it was a brilliant judicial decision may be besides the point. The move has the country including the grass roots discussing the situation.
There was suspicion that the government was going to try to ram through a new or vastly changed constitution without public hearings. That has, effectively, become impossible. In parliament and political circles, in cafes and markets, public curiosity, discussion and debate has been raised. Throughout the country, millions of Thais now credit the court for holding up charter amendments. Millions blame the court for the same thing.
It's not at all likely that the seven justices who instigated this situation really had the aim of fostering an unorganised but very real constitution drafting assembly (CDA). But since they voted to accept hypothetical charges against the government, tens of millions of citizens have weighed in on the charter _ what it means and what it should mean. People who had literally never heard of Section 68 of the 2007 constitution have become experts on what it means now, and how it should be retained or changed in the next charter.
The judges, and again not by design, have exposed a terrible flaw in the plan by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the Pheu Thai Party to amend or rewrite the 2007 constitution. That is a political error of importance. No body, parliament or CDA or other committees, must change the constitution without input from the Thai people.
This newspaper has said since 2007 that the current charter is an inferior document. It was produced quickly, under strong military influence. It contains anti-democratic measures such as the appointment of senators. However, fast fixes will not repair the constitution. Only a major, national process and consensus can produce a supreme law that is worthy of the country.
The current actions of the court are questionable. Certainly, no legal authority has agreed with the decision to consider complaints based on what might happen. In effect, the judges have painted the court into a corner. They have no choice now but to consider the lawsuits they themselves called political. One hopes the decision will come quickly, and will move events ahead.
In traditional democracy, high courts consider actions after they are completed by the legislature. They affirm or strike down actions, giving reasons. The judges have contributed to the constitutional debate, even though it seems clear that was not their intention.
The court cannot rule on whether the government's changes to constitution are legal since it hasn't made any. That point is now clear. If amending or rewriting the constitution is such a national priority, what are the details?
It is all very well for the government to challenge the authority of the court on whether it can change the constitution. But the Thai voters should challenge the government to make crystal clear what changes it seeks. Otherwise, the suspicions will never end.