Charter draft plan 'doomed'

Charter draft plan 'doomed'

Aproposal by the National Reform Council (NRC) whip to nominate "outsiders" as members of a constitution drafting committee is doomed from the start, several NRC members say.

The proposal is expected to face resistance from council members, while the outsiders who comprise politicians and elements from the political divide, are unlikely to join the panel, as the current provisional constitution bans politicians from joining the drafting panel.

A meeting of the NRC whip on Wednesday voted by 10-8 to accept a proposal to invite and nominate outsiders to sit on the 36-member charter drafting panel under its quota.

Under the interim charter, the chairperson of the charter drafting panel will be proposed by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

The NRC is required to nominate 20 people — out of 36 in total — to form the constitution drafting committee.

The remaining 15 members — five each — will be proposed by the NCPO, the cabinet and the National Legislative Assembly.

The NRC whip meeting agreed that of the 20 NRC nominations, five outsiders should also be invited to join the drafting panel.

They include representatives of both sides of the political divide, including the People's Democratic Reform Committee and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, and representatives of major political parties such as Pheu Thai, the Democrat Party and Chartthaipattana.

An NRC source said the proposal was that of former Democrat MP Alongkorn Ponlaboot who wanted to show to the public that the NRC welcomes all sides in the charter drafting process.

However, the proposal has drawn criticism from several NRC members, who believe the proposal will be rejected when it is tabled for a vote at an NRC meeting on Monday.

The source said it is unlikely the five groups will send their representatives to join the panel.

The current provisional constitution prohibits politicians from joining the charter drafting assembly, and the new permanent constitution is expected to include provisions that ban controversial politicians suspected of being involved in corruption from politics, the
source said.

NRC member Paiboon Nititawan from the former so-called Group of 40 Senators said he did not believe the NRC meeting will approve the proposal, and he will vote against it.

He said the proposal will create unnecessary conflict among the NRC. "Everything is already going well, so why invite trouble?" he said.

The proposal, he said, contradicts the spirit of the interim charter which gives the NRC members, who are tasked with coming up with a blueprint for national reform, a leading role in deciding how the new permanent charter should be written

"The proposal violates the interim charter, which stipulates that panel members must not be members of political parties in the three years prior to their appointment to the charter drafting panel," Mr Paiboon said.

NRC member Rosana Tositrakul also disagreed with the proposal, saying it was wrong to appoint those involved in the political conflict to the drafting panel.

The constitution is the supreme law of the country that must be acceptable to all sides and it must be designed to address major issues facing the country, Ms Rosana said.

Wanchai Sornsiri, spokesman of the NRC whip, also from the former Group of 40 Senators, admitted the majority of the whip has proposed that five outsiders be nominated to the charter drafting panel.

However, it is up to the majority on the reform council to decide, and the decision must be followed, Mr Wanchai said, adding that the whip has not yet discussed approaching any particular outsiders.

NRC member and former rector of the National Institute of Development Administration Sombat Thamrongthandyawong said the charter drafters must be constitutional experts, regardless of whether they are chosen from the NRC or outsiders.

Mr Sombat said having five outsiders is not sufficient to have any major bearing on the content of the new charter.

Meanwhile, NRC member Ampol Chindawattana said it would be a good idea to have outsiders join the drafting committee, including those who have different opinions.

It has been speculated that NRC members under the provincial quota may band together to counter the opinions of the NRC members selected to deal with the 11 fields proposed for reform, including the Monday outsiders proposal vote.

However, NRC member Direk Thuengfang denied the report, saying the NRC would not be divided.

"We will work together for the country," he said.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday the NCPO and the cabinet will meet on Nov 4 to discuss the nomination of five people each under their quotas to the charter drafting panel.

He also admitted that Borwornsak Uwanno, secretary-general of the King Prajadhipok's Institute, is among those who are tipped to be appointed chair of the charter drafting panel.

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