Democrats ease political freedom demands

Democrats ease political freedom demands

Chuan says govt will be held to account

Ex-prime minister Chuan Leekpai, still an influential voice in the Democrat Party. (File photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Ex-prime minister Chuan Leekpai, still an influential voice in the Democrat Party. (File photo by Chanat Katanyu)

The Democrat Party sees no need to be "persistent" in asking the regime to lift its ban on political activities for now as the government must take responsibility for any backlash caused by delays in lifting the ban, former prime minister and ex-Democrat Party leader Chuan Leekpai says.

Critics have voiced concern that the regime's reluctance to lift the ban could cause a general election to be postponed to 2019.

Mr Chuan, chief adviser to the Democrats, said Sunday he and other party executives agreed party members should not keep demanding political restrictions be lifted.

The government and those in power must consider themselves what action should be taken and when, so parties can comply with legal time frames stipulated by election-related laws and the constitution.

"Those in power will know that if they are slow [in lifting the ban] and cause any damage, they will be held to account," Mr Chuan said.

Mr Chuan also stressed the importance of democracy as Sunday marked Constitution Day.

He said he heard comments from some critics that democracy is an obstacle to national development, an argument he opposes.

The real obstacle is people, Mr Chuan said, adding that while several previous constitutions contained certain flaws, they still had merits.

In essence, the constitution itself is not a problem, but the people who do not uphold democracy are the real culprits, Mr Chuan said.

Pheu Thai Party acting leader Viroj Pao-in expects the general election to be held in November next year as promised by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

However, one problem facing political parties is they are required to fulfil certain obligations, such as reviewing their membership database, as stipulated by the organic law on political parties which was enacted on Oct 8. However, they cannot do so as the National Council for Peace and Order has not lifted the ban on political activities.

Parties have deadlines to meet and they will be punished by the law if they miss them, Pol Lt Gen Viroj said.

The organic law on political parities requires all parties to complete certain mandatory processes, such as notifications of changes of party members to the registrar, within 90 days of the law coming into effect on Oct 8.

He urged the government to allow parties to proceed with their activities to prepare for the general election.

Currently, parties cannot travel to provinces to meet party members as this could be deemed a political activity, Pol Lt Gen Viroj said, adding the party has written to ask Gen Prayut as the NCPO leader to consider lifting the political restrictions, but there was no reply.

Acting Pheu Thai deputy spokesman Anusorn Iamsa-ard said the ban on political gatherings should be lifted as it infringes on people's freedom of expression.

The NCPO's claim the political ban cannot be lifted because unrest remains is unwarranted, Mr Anusorn said, adding parties should be given enough time to make preparations.

Meanwhile, an opinion survey carried out by the National Institute of Development Administration revealed that 77.6% of 1,250 respondents supported calls for the restrictions to be lifted to allow parties to prepare for the general election.

Asked if it would be acceptable if national reforms are not complete and the poll has to be delayed to 2019, 62.3% said it was acceptable. The poll was conducted among respondents aged 18 and over of various levels of education and income throughout the country on Dec 8-9.

They were asked about the lifting of political restrictions and the postponement of the general election.

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