Don't block new charter

Don't block new charter

A political crisis is looming amid ominous signs that the charter rewrite process could have hit a hurdle.

The Constitutional Court yesterday completed the hearing for the contentious motion filed by Piboon Nititawan who is known for his pro-military stance on whether the parliament has the power to form a charter-drafting panel in accordance with Section 256 of the military-sponsored 2017 constitution. The court will issue a ruling next Thursday.

There is little hope the rewrite process will be smooth. In considering the motion, the court sought opinions from four people: Meechai Ruchupan, Borwornsak Uwanno, law lecturer Somkit Lertpaithoon, and Udom Rathamarit who had one role or another in this controversial charter. Mr Meechai and Mr Borwornsak were former chairs of the military-picked charter drafting panels.

Even if the court decides to give the green light to the rewrite process, a number of senators have vowed to sink it during the third reading, initially scheduled for March 17.

Senator Wallop Tangkananurak, a former child rights activist, is among those who want to abort the process, citing fears over a possibility the new charter rewrite panel to be formed under Section 256 might give the opportunity to curb the King's authority. Yet, on the other hand, the real reason behind such a move could be that the senators do not want to give up power. In order to get approval for the go-ahead, a minimum of 84 votes is required from the Senate, or 450 out of the 750 votes, or one-third of the total.

In fact, it's an open secret that the Senate would be able to sink the process by itself -- it's only passing the buck to the court in the hope that the latter has a mechanism to silence critics.

In fact, the government has tried to ease public anger by showing that section-by-section amendments could still be possible, but that would be a time-consuming process and there is no guarantee that the undemocratic clauses, ie the Senate's power in choosing the PM as well as other unfair rules that enable the military to stay on in politics, would ever be removed. in that case, there could be a dead-end, and pro-democracy elements may have justification to resume street protests that would not bode well for the government and the country. But the conservatives have no reason to fear the charter rewrite as the supreme law would have to go through a referendum.

Instead of blocking the new charter and the formation of the charter rewrite team, the Prayut government and the Senate should listen to the people and ensure their support in order to avoid a political crisis. The conservative factions and 2017 charter advocates must stop making claims over a mandate from 16 million "yes" votes during the 2016 referendum as it is clear that this was held under tight restrictions, with critics being thrown into jail even for holding a panel discussion.

Some people might have voted yes in the hope the country could be peacefully transformed into a democracy, but they were let down as power has been concentrated with the military leaders.

The country has been stuck in a so-called guided democracy long enough. There are no more excuses for not having a new constitution with fair rules.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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