The new law of the land

Forget about all that messy voting business, this is the constitution we really need to fix the country

Sadly, there was no fresh manuscript neatly wrapped under the Christmas tree. We did get a new Star Wars film in time for the holidays (spoiler: the rolling robot’s the best character), but we still have to wait for the latest gift from the Constitution Drafting Committee.

Will Meechai Ruchupan channel the excitement of the original trilogy of the ’70s and ’80s, the one with the ruthless empire stomping around in smart uniforms, or the version from the late ’90s that dealt with venal — but nevertheless elected — politicians debating then voting on legislation?

Those who have read his previous work think they know what to expect, but it is tempting to imagine the world’s most experienced constitution writer being visited at night by the ghosts of his predecessors and having a Dickensian epiphany.

“Democracy is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike,” Plato might remind him, the ancient Greek philosopher having had an idea or two about representative government, so long as women and slaves were kept well out of it.

James Madison, who put quill to paper writing the US constitution, was pithier: “The truth is that all men having power must be mistrusted.” “Philosophy is common sense with big words.” “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Sprinkle a few phrases like that throughout and suddenly explanations of mixed-member proportional representation and redistribution of party-list votes become a little more palatable.

Accepting that the right to choose the country’s political leaders will not return any time soon, here instead is a constitution that addresses the concerns of people who just want to get on with their lives. Fixing the broken roads across the map might take less time than finishing the long and winding roadmap to elections.

Tricky as it is, we’ve given it some thought and come up with a plan that will improve our lives immensely. Trust us, the 20th time’s the charm. You don’t even need to vote for it.

So, take a deep draught and enjoy the new draft.

1. Government agencies and services

All public servants should serve the public. This idea is probably the most radical, being totally opposite to conventional thinking.

(i) Officials at district offices who sell plastic folders and wedding certificate display cases on the side must have the prices displayed clearly at all times.

(ii) Bureaucrats will do their best to maximise the use of our taxes, rather than devoting their efforts to minimising their own.

(iii) Police officers will enforce the law and do such potentially life-saving things such as taking the keys away from those who think motorcycles are suitable for four or more children without helmets.

(iv) The army will be packed up and labelled with the following warning: For external use only.

2. Transportation

No one would be silly enough to promise to fix Bangkok’s traffic congestion in six months, right? But a few simple steps would ease a lot of frustration.

(i) Eliminate traffic police who change the lights only when the stars align on auspicious days or whenever they come to the realisation no more cars can cram into the intersection. Computerised traffic lights work pretty well everywhere else in the world and it would be good if the days of waiting 12 minutes at a five-way intersection or 25 to turn right from Rama IV onto Sukhumvit were behind us.

(ii) Remove the empty taxis whose drivers refuse to take passengers, freeing up road space for those trying to get anywhere. Instead of a tax deduction to put more cars on the road, a congestion tax would encourage the greater use of public transport.

(iii) Any car driver, motorcyclist or bicycle rider seen talking, texting or simply staring blankly at a mobile phone screen while on the move will face a fine equivalent to the cost of the latest iPhone.

(iv) Saphan Taksin station will be demolished to allow trains to run twice as often on the Silom line.

(v) A single ticket for trains and buses must be introduced by the end of 2016. No excuses, millions have already been spent on feasibility studies and consultants.

(vi) Buy some new buses. It would be nice if they had signs we could read, too.

3. Telecommunications

(i) Anyone walking in a public place — particularly at BTS stations, in shopping malls or on crowded streets — while staring at a mobile phone screen will have their device seized immediately, without time to make a call for help to an important person.

(ii) The following age limits will be imposed on social media applications: Twitter, 18 years. Viber, 25 years. Instagram and Line, 30 years. Facebook, 50 years.

(iii) Those caught sending Line Cookie Run updates to their boss will be forced to eat two packets of McVitie’s digestive biscuits.

(iv) Anyone who begins a comment on an English-language news forum with the phrase “You must be new to Thailand” or “When I first arrived” will be banned from the internet.

4. Visas

Every time the 90-day online reporting system fails, users are automatically entitled to another 90 days in the country.

5. Education

(i) The 8am assemblies at school will be abolished. They serve no discernible purpose other than to count the number of students present and let teachers moan about kids not keeping their shirts tucked in, neither of which need be done under a hot sun.

(ii) Uniforms will be banned in universities, as they mostly serve as training for a future in Las Vegas rather than the workforce.

(iii) A 300m exclusion zone around schools will be imposed on street vendors’ junk food. Any student who wishes to buy deep-fried chicken, grilled pork or fish balls swimming in sweet-chilli sauce, washed down with a cold beer, must prove they can walk far enough to earn it. 

6. Culture

(i) Food is for eating, not Instagramming.

(ii) No one, including those returning happiness at 8.30pm on Friday, shall interrupt prime-time soap operas, especially as the country waits to know whether the tragic heroine who gambled her son’s inheritance away has succumbed to a bout of karmic syphilis. Amending the constitution The next person who stages a coup, rips up the constitution and gives themselves an amnesty will be strapped into the contraption from A Clockwork Orange and forced to watch all six Naresuan films.

7. Thainess

(i) A committee of 12 Khunyings Na EmQuartier will put their well-coifed heads together and issue a set of criteria to answer the vexing question “what is Thainess” once and for all. Their rulings on when and where to wear Thai silk will be final.

(ii) A committee of 12 Khon Kaen cleaners and Sakon Nakhon ladyboys will gather over beer and som tam to issue a set of rules of their own, governing the correct dishes that accompany sticky rice for breakfast.

8. Health

(i) Free condoms will be available for everyone, regardless of age or sexual preference. Sex toys at your own expense.

(ii) To promote healthy eating habits, each family will be limited to one buffet meal per week.

(iii) Smoking in public places will continue to be banned, but the police and city inspectors will no longer wait for cigarette butts to be stubbed out and flicked away to act.

9. The economy

(i) Every square metre of land not being developed as a condominium will be treated as a potential commercial space.

(ii) For every two square metres of commercial space, one must be devoted to cafes that sell oversized iced sugar beverages that bear a distant relationship to coffee.

(iii) Christmas trees measuring no less than five metres tall and three metres wide must be placed in or around any shopping mall between November and January. * The clauses in this section will not change anything, but are designed to regulate a situation that is now out of control.

10. Amending the constitution

There is no Section 44. And the next person who stages a coup, rips up the constitution and gives themselves an amnesty will be strapped into the contraption from A Clockwork Orange and forced to watch all six Naresuan films.