CDC doesn't rule out need for crisis panel

Drafters tread with care given past failure

The Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) will reexamine the law and decide whether there should be a panel or organisation dedicated to dealing with a deadlock caused by a crisis in government, according to chairman Meechai Ruchupan.

Mr Meechai was responding to one of the 10 suggestions conveyed by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) on the charter's amendment. 

Suggestion No.6 says a crisis in government or political disputes could occur at any moment, possibly causing a constitutional gridlock. The NCPO felt the new charter should provide leeway to break such an impasse, particularly if a vacuum exists in exercising legislative, executive and judicial powers. 

Mr Meechai said the CDC has been discussing this and thought that such national crises should be resolved using available constitutional means. No special organisation or panel should be created to tackle them. 

However, the CDC has not ruled out a crisis organisation or panel. Mr Meechai said the committee will review relevant laws before deciding on the issue.

Observers said those drafting the charter are treading carefully after their predecessors led by Borwornsak Uwanno tried to introduce the controversial crisis panel.

The members of the crisis panel would have included the military top brass, with the power to override an elected government of the day rendered unable to govern by constitutional constraints during a time of political conflict.

The idea of a crisis panel, which politicians accused of legitimising coups, is believed to be one of the reasons the proposed charter drafted by the Borwornsak-led CDC was voted down by the National Reform Council. The Borwornsak-led CDC has been replaced by the current CDC.

Mr Meechai said the CDC does not intend to establish a new order to supplant the existing one. "It would be like imposing a new heap [of power] on top of something which is already entangled and messy," he said.

He added Section 7 in the abrogated 2007 constitution may be rewritten in the new charter for the sake of clarity.

Protesters who rallied against the previous Yingluck Shinawatra administration had called for the section to be invoked to allow for an interim prime minister to be appointed to break the crisis of government at the time. The call was made before the May 22 coup which toppled the Yingluck administration. 

Mr Meechai said many mistook the section as a last-resort instrument for installing an interim prime minister. In fact, the way the section was worded left no technical or practical solutions that would have permitted the naming of an interim premier. 

In the new charter, the content of Section 7 will be reworded to make it clear what can or cannot be done, the CDC chief added. 

Mr Meechai also said the CDC will consider the NCPO's suggestions on what should be included in the new charter. However, it may not follow everything the council has recommended. 

For example, suggestion No.7 -- which states that military force carried out with the honest intention to secure the state against domestic and external threats will be exempted from civil, criminal or administrative punishment -- is superfluous, according to Mr Meechai. 

He explained such exemptions were stipulated in the criminal code.

Also, Mr Meechai said the charter does not need to incorporate suggestion No.8, which says military personnel enjoy the rights to political expression as ordinary citizens since the charter's underlying principle guarantees equal rights to everyone.

Related search: Constitution, Constitution Drafting Committee, Meechai Ruchupan, crisis panel, NCPO, junta, military role, constitution, constitution drafting committee, Junta

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Writer: Mongkol Bangprapa
Position: Senior reporter covering politics