NCPO rejects call to lift political gatherings ban
Issues can be aired at CRR forum, it says
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has rejected a call by the Pheu Thai Party that it lift a ban on parties conducting political activities.
The Democrats decided on Tuesday not to add their voice to the call for the junta to relax its political gatherings ban, leaving Pheu Thai the only major party to have taken the stand.
NCPO spokesman Col Winthai Suwaree said the junta had created a forum for interested parties to have their say, and Pheu Thai should stick to that.
The Centre for Reconciliation and Reform (CRR) already serves as a unique public forum for all to have their opinions heard regarding the constitution and the proposed reforms, Col Winthai said.
However, the NCPO would still treat the call as a formal request which it was prepared to consider.
Col Winthai said the NCPO was not barring anyone from expressing their opinions, or it would have not initiated the CRR for all to express their thoughts freely, including parties calling on the NCPO to lift its ban on political gatherings.
Pheu Thai acting secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai on Monday said the charter drafting process had reached a point where the public were asking whether a referendum was needed.
This stage was crucial and he personally thought it was necessary to arrange a referendum to allow the public to decide whether they approve or disapprove of the draft charter, said Mr Phumtham.
In case the draft charter is not approved at the referendum, there should be more options for the public to choose from, other than the prospect that everything would go back to square one again, he said.
Other options might include adopting either the 1997 constitution or the 2007 one so the country won't have to lose more time on the charter drafting process, and the NCPO will be able to stick to its roadmap of restoring democracy to Thailand, he said.
Political parties should be allowed to call a meeting to discuss such matters, he said, which is why Pheu Thai had called on the NCPO to consider lifting its ban.
Even the NCPO, the National Reform Council (NRC) and the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) held conflicting opinions regarding these matters, said Mr Phumtham.
"If they resolve not to hold a referendum on the draft charter, problems will arise given the fact that judges, police, academics and politicians have all criticised the contents," he said. "How could our country move forward with so much division over the charter?" asked Mr Phumtham.
Wirat Kalayasiri, head of the Democrat Party's legal team, backed the NCPO's decision to hold on to its special powers, saying there were still active "underground" movements against the government.
These movements were likely to move against the draft charter if a public referendum is organised, said Mr Wirat. He was asked whether he agrees with the call for the NCPO to relax its ban on gatherings.
He admitted the draft charter contains some problems, such as granting too much authority to the Senate.
But Mr Wirat also said he was confident the NLA, the NRC and the Constitution Drafting Committee were aware of the problems and they would correct them before it is too late.