CDC backs down on death penalty plan
Charter panel offers life term for graft
The Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) bowed Monday to widespread criticism of a proposal for the death penalty for politicians convicted of selling or buying political positions, saying life imprisonment will be worded into the organic law on political parties as an alternative.
CDC chairman Meechai Ruchupan said the panel has noted the criticism, mostly from politicians, and agreed to include life imprisonment as an alternative to the death penalty. He insisted the law is better having the death penalty.
"If you look at other laws including those passed last year, the death penalty remains the ultimate punishment -- narcotics, rape, or human trafficking. Junior government officials who commit corruption offences also risk the death penalty. I think we'd better keep it there," he said.
Earlier, Mr Meechai said the death penalty was aimed at deterring corrupt people from getting involved in politics and discouraging the buying of ministerial positions.
One of the staunchest critics of the proposal is Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva who said he has no objection to penalties for corruption being made more severe, but he does not support capital punishment under these circumstances.
Another is National Legislative Assembly (NLA) deputy chairman Peerasak Porjit who said he is not in favour of the death penalty, saying the measure is simply too harsh.
Mr Meechai also said he does not mind if the NLA makes changes to the draft organic laws prepared by the CDC during scrutiny, but stressed that changes must not contradict the constitution adopted in the referendum.
A joint committee will be set up to scrutinise the draft laws if the NLA and the CDC disagree on key issues that are deemed against the new constitution or are likely to cause problems once enforced, he said.
On the tenure of members of independent bodies, the CDC chairman said the panels asked to select members of independent organisations will have the final say if the current members should stay on or go.
He dismissed criticism that stringent qualification rules for serving on public independent organisations are aimed at forcing current members to quit.
"They should accept it and live with it. This is because the charter writing process was open and transparent. Moreover, the charter contents were endorsed in the public referendum," he said.
Mr Meechai said that the charter does not allow or require existing members to complete their terms because the independent bodies under the new charter have more powers and responsibilities, so their members must meet new qualification criteria.
"We didn't consider the qualifications of each individual member during the process of charter writing. We are concerned that when the independent bodies are given more powers to proceed with national reform, higher-calibre people are needed for the work," he said.