'Don't rely on democracy' for charter

'Don't rely on democracy' for charter

Prayut vows end to cycle of coups

Photo by Patipat Janthong
Photo by Patipat Janthong

Charter drafters have been told to avoid relying solely on the "principles of democracy", as Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha expressed hope that the new constitution would ensure there is no repeat of last year's coup.

In a special “Message to the People” on Saturday, Gen Prayut said the process of writing the new charter was closely linked with efforts to build national reconciliation.

But he said the new constitution must reflect the reality of problems which had forced the military to topple the Yingluck administration last year.

"Don’t rely on the principles of democracy or 'unlimited liberties' as the basis [for drafting the charter] without consideration of where the real problems are,” Gen Prayut said in the statement, which was read out by government spokesman Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd in a televised broadcast.

“What the government and the NCPO are doing is to prevent the country from sliding back to the same situation. We don’t want to be anyone’s enemies, but we won’t let anyone hurt the people and the monarchy and pressure us or the CDC from making changes.

“We hope that the military coup on May 22, 2014 will be the last."

While it was unclear what prompted the statement yesterday, shortly after the premier delivered his weekly address on Friday evening, it came just days after the appointment of Meechai Ruchupan as chairman of the new 21-member Constitution Drafting Committee earlier last week.

Gen Prayut also admitted last week that his government was considering a selective amnesty for political offenders as part of efforts to bring about national unity.

The premier said the new charter would aim to stamp out "parliamentary dictatorship", corruption and illegal practices while ensuring good governance.

While the NCPO is committed to laying the groundwork for reforms for future governments to implement, he said, a legal mechanism "is needed" to drive national reforms and intervene if a political crisis is threatening the country.

“The NCPO and the government are aware that the majority of the people and the international community don’t approve of military intervention, so we hope the people will contribute to the charter drafting process and help create a charter that is a cure to the country’s problems," the statement said.

"It will be good if the military does not have to step in [again].”

The prime minister said justice and the rule of law would be upheld in the reconciliation process, dismissing suggestions that an amnesty would be a direct way to peace and unity.

“What happened to the principle that everyone is under the same law? If [people] had decided to stay and fight charges against them, there wouldn’t be the NCPO," he said, in a thinly veiled reference to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

"There wouldn’t be any casualties from armed groups. We all know who those groups support."

Gen Prayut called on the public, politicians and academics to express their views through the channels provided by the CDC rather than through media outlets to "avoid causing any mix-ups" between fact and opinion.

He said the CDC had been asked to begin with reviewing past problems when drafting the new charter, and to listen to public opinion throughout the process.

The prime minister also lashed out at the previous administration for not doing enough to take action against political groups trying to stir up division for their own gain and spreading rumours to undermine stability in the country.

He said these groups were the same ones accusing the NCPO of using the lese majeste law to suppress its critics, and were making use of the internet to avoid legal actions and exploiting the principle of human rights to cover up their wrongdoing.

Responding to Gen Prayut’s statement, red shirt leader Nattawut Saikuar said criticism against the charter drafting process had been triggered by “signs of something undemocratic”.

He warned that if an undemocratic charter was in place, it was the people’s powers, not politicians’ powers, that would be at stake.

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