Charter needs 'protection' to push reforms

Charter needs 'protection' to push reforms

A new charter should contain provisions to enable a new government to see through national reforms and enact organic laws or face the consequences, political scientists have said.

The proposal is based on observations that past elected government have delayed or failed to enact some organic laws when political interests are at stake, which made the old charters useless for certain purposes.

Their call is also in line with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's earlier remarks that mechanisms should be in place to ensure a constitution will not be distorted and reform proposals will not be abandoned.

Nakharin Mektrairat, a political scientist from Thammasat University, said an independent body is needed to "protect" the new constitution.

Such an organisation should be empowered to keep the new government on schedule and to examine if organic laws are in line with the charter's purposes, he said.

"It is a pity that several organic laws required by the charter have never come into existence. They are simply ignored," he said.

However, Mr Nakharin said the proposed body should not have such overwhelming power that it can intervene and cause a political imbalance.

Banjerd Singkhaneti, dean of the law faculty at the National Institute of Development and Administration, said the 2007 charter had been "ripped apart" before the May 22 coup because past governments failed to promulgate laws to realise the charter's purposes.

"I think the charter drafting assembly should also be asked to draft necessary organic laws, not just election laws, and send them over to the National Legislative Assembly [for consideration]. And it will help guarantee essential laws are enacted if the NLA is dissolved six months after the new charter comes into force," he said.

He suggested the public should be allowed to directly submit a draft law, required by the new charter, to parliament for consideration if a new government fails to sponsor it.

Sanctions may also be considered against a government that fails to submit the draft legislation as required.

Wanwichit Boonprong, a political scientist from Rangsit University, said a campaign should be launched to educate people about the draft charter and gather input for revision.

He said a Senate election should be organised before a general election is called. The Upper House is a suitable choice to test the charter's political reforms because there are fewer conflicts of interest in a Senate poll.

"Don't rush to dissolve the NLA after the charter comes into force. And it is important to educate the people about the charter to prevent criticism they have been fooled into voting for it," he said.

This will help political parties respect the coup-sponsored charter and try not to amend it at will, he said.

The three academics also suggested there should be a clause making charter amendments difficult, especially when the proposed changes deal with electoral system and civil rights and liberties.

Mr Banjerd said certain issues must be made off-limits including the constitutional monarchy, while some can be amended only if they are approved in a referendum. 

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