Parties call for constitution to be ripped up
Pheu Thai, Dems, FFP all back new version
Representatives from political parties slammed the coup-sponsored 2017 charter on Monday, branded "Section 44" of being another form of coup and suggested the constitution should be amended after the House of Representatives is in place.
Speaking at a seminar hosted by the People's Party for Freedom (PPF), a staunch critic of the 2017 charter, the Pheu Thai, Democrat and the Future Forward (FFP) parties indicated that Section 44 was the most problematic element.
Section 44, which was invoked during the interim charter, gives Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha absolute power in his capacity as head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).
It was carried over into the 2017 charter's Section 265 but it is still referred to as Section 44. The government insists Section 44 powers must be retained and some of the orders could be made into law.
While the politicians agreed the charter should be amended, they had different suggestions as to where to begin.
Pokin Polakul, a Pheu Thai Party key figure, said the charter amendment process should begin with Section 279 to allow the entire constitution to be revised.
However, Mr Pokin admitted it was almost impossible to amend the charter due to several limitations. He said the only way to secure charter amendments was for the pro-democracy camp to win the general election in a landslide victory and appoint the prime minister.
Ramet Rattanachaweng, the Democrat Party spokesman, said Section 44 was the worst aspect of the charter and parties were struggling to prepare for the general election because of certain Section 44 orders.
"Section 44 is more powerful than the charter. Party membership, the police transfer and the drawing of constituency boundaries are all under Section 44," he said.
However, he said the most pressing issues in the charter are provisions that deprive the people of certain freedoms.
"What the MPs can do is to amend the provisions that hinder rights and liberties and pose as obstacles to solving corruption. But politicians must not create any conditions that will allow themselves to dodge scrutiny," he said.
Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary-general of the FFP, said that the 2017 charter was designed to make the 2014 coup d'etat legitimate.
He said the party is expected to address the issue in detail on Dec 16 but the key policy will be to cancel NCPO orders that are "unnecessary, especially those that violated human rights".
According to Mr Piyabutr, a new drafting process should be initiated and once the new draft is ready it must be put up for a public referendum.
He stressed that popular support is needed to back any bid to amend the charter, saying MPs alone were not enough to see the process through.
Mr Piyabutr added that the FFP would move ahead with the charter amendment process as soon as parliament was in place.
He said the public should be empowered to file criminal charges against coup-makers and there should be no statute of limitations for these cases if the country wants to end military interventions.
"To stop this cycle, we have to make sure those who seize power will be held accountable for their actions," Mr Piyabutr said.
Pornsan Liangboonlertchai, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, said he believed a new round of political crises would erupt after the formation of the next government due to some elements in the charter.
He added that the 2017 charter was almost impossible to amend.
Before the seminar started, PPF representatives read a statement to oppose the coup-sponsored charter and call for a process to have the charter abolished and replaced with a democratic one.