Charter to deal us a crippling blow
published : 1 Sep 2015 at 05:20
newspaper section: News
After scanning through what might be Thailand's 20th constitution in more than 80 years, I have to say, in my view it is a nasty piece of work. Imagine the most conniving characters in all of fiction, like Cruella de Vil, Fagin, Lex Luther and Hamlet, got together and decided to write a new constitution for Thailand. This draft would easily be something they could have come up with.
It's an insult to the memories of those who gave their lives fighting for a real democracy. It's a slap in the face of progress. But worst of all it's a dagger in the back to the very concept of law.
Let me state clearly my objections to this draft constitution. Firstly, I object to being treated with such contempt. After all, we are taxpayers. The last time I checked, anyone who claims to be a "public servant" is on a salary paid for by taxpayers. Technically, that makes me, along with other taxpayers, the boss, not the other way around.
If this administration doesn't believe me, try running this country without taxpayer funds. Therefore, drafting a constitution with the sole purpose of bypassing public participation is in itself an act of treachery, worthy of condemnation. The drafting process is probably just as important as the end result, when it comes to creating a new constitution. Legitimacy is as sacred as the content itself, because without legitimacy, the very make-up and articles of the constitution, even if well meaning, will fall under deep suspicion, which will render it completely ineffective.
Secondly, I don't think the people of Thailand will respond well to state-sanctioned blackmail. In simple terms, these are the choices we are given by this administration:
A) Willingly accept this draft constitution, and you can look forward to meaningless elections that will result in a weak, unstable, chaotic coalition of political invertebrates, that will be "supervised" by an unelected, unaccountable and unimpeachable "Jedi Council" comprised of "good people".
Or, B) You can test our resolve and reject this constitution, in which case we can go through this whole process again, until we break your will to resist.
Thirdly, the content of this constitution is deceptive. At first glance this draft seems progressive. In the beginning of the process, we were led to believe that ordinary people will have more say in what governments do. We were led to believe that accountability, checks and balances and the rule of law would all be in place.
But towards the end, particularly in the articles that establish the strategic reform and reconciliation committee, it becomes abundantly clear that "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away".
Even though this superboard has a temporary tenure of five years, there are no guarantees. Why? Well, because the committee, comprising 22 members, including army, air force and navy chiefs, will ultimately be accountable to nobody.
Whatever it does or says is the law, and there is no recourse to its judgements, because it will be the final arbiter in all matters of state. Simply put, it is similar to what the Sicilians refer to as capo di tutti capi, or "boss of all bosses". For these reasons, in principle and practice, I find it hard to justify endorsing such a document. God knows that Thailand needs a constitution, but what is happening right before our eyes is the very definition of absurdity. This just about sums it up.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said recently there is nothing wrong with people voicing their opinions about the constitution, but it is inappropriate to try and persuade others to accept or reject it.
The art of persuasion through debate and discussion, employing reason and logic and based on evidence, is probably the sole reason why the vast majority of the human race is able to live free from of diseases like smallpox, making human sacrifices to appease the Gods or burning witches at the stake.
It's time we came to our senses. The only proper way forward now is to bring back the People's Constitution and find a way to make transparent and effective revisions to it, through a legitimate process that involves the participation of the people. Thailand has already suffered a "lost decade" due to our political squabbles.
The economy is sinking, division is rife and public morale is at an all-time low. I honestly don't think Thailand can afford or indeed survive another lost decade.
Songkran Grachangnetara is an entrepreneur. He graduated from The London School of Economics and Columbia University. He can be reached at Twitter: @SongkranTalk
Songkran Grachangnetara is an entrepreneur. He graduated from The London School of Economics and Columbia University.