Charter draft powerful weapon in graft fight, says Meechai

The Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) has wrapped up its week-long review of the draft charter which if enforced will be a powerful weapon in the fight against corruption, according to chief charter writer Meechai Ruchupan.

The draft contains 261 sections excluding the provisional chapter that will be reviewed tomorrow in Bangkok. The 261 general sections can be shortened by 10 before a complete first draft is unveiled to the public on Jan 29. When asked what the charter should be called, the CDC chairman said "the anti-corruption charter".

The constitution introduces strict measures against election fraud and corruption in office including unscrupulous budget allocations. The entire cabinet will be removed if a minister is found guilty of corrupt practices. "Some people may complain we are making things difficult for a government. If they are not up to mischief, they shouldn't have any trouble," Mr Meechai said.

Independent public bodies will be authorised to initiate investigations without waiting for a formal complaint to be lodged. Three agencies -- the National Anti-Corruption Commission, the Office of the Auditor-General and the Election Commission -- will be given new powers to warn the government of policy risks, to promote accountability.

The charter also introduces a new senate make-up which comprises 200 members elected from 20 social groups, 10 from each group. The indirect election of senators is designed to keep at bay interference by political parties.

According to the CDC chairman, while the charter endorses orders by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and the interim government, it does not protect them from being investigated for irregularities.

Key Pheu Thai members have slammed the CDC for including several controversial elements in the charter. Among them are changes concerning the election system and the single ballot, the senate's composition and the powers which some independent organisations will have over the executive branch.

Noppadon Patama, of Pheu Thai, said the CDC has made the matter worse by making it hard to amend the charter. After passing a referendum, a charter amendment needs a majority vote in the House to pass. The vote must be based on support of at least 10% of MPs from parties with 10 MPs or more.

"The requirement set by the CDC is against the principle of majority rule. It is like a time bomb," he said.

Related search: Constitution, Constitution Drafting Committee, Meechai Ruchupan, corruption, graft

About the author

Writer: Mongkol Bangprapa
Position: Senior reporter covering politics