Attacks on charter 'will see reprisals'
Politicians have been warned by charter draft leader Meechai Ruchupan not to say anything that distorts the intent and legality of the planned constitution before it goes to a referendum or they will bear the blame.
In a signal to anyone trying to derail the government's plans, Mr Meechai, who heads up the drafting committee, said there should be no misunderstandings about the draft when it goes to the people for a vote.
Anyone who allows their feelings to distort the draft's intentions will suffer the consequences, he warned, saying politicians and political parties must allow clarity when the referendum is held and must not mislead the people.
He said 2016 was the time to prepare for an election and that the political landscape would start returning to normal later this year.
The political scene would see a series of important activities this year especially after the draft charter being written by the Constitution Drafting Committee is completed in March. The first draft will be completed by Jan 29.
The interim charter requires the final draft to be put up for a national referendum. The outcome should be known no later than August and a general election is tentatively scheduled to take place in the middle of next year.
Mr Meechai said the new charter places heavy emphasis on two issues — encouraging public participation in a democratic process, and stamping out corruption and electoral fraud while promoting political ethics.
Politicians who commit electoral fraud will face a life ban from politics and there will be clear penalties for MPs and senators sitting on parliamentary budget vetting committees who change the budget for their own benefit, he said.
In addition, the charter will formulate mechanisms to prevent street protests but it will not determine that a street protest is unlawful.
He also said the charter will include two reform issues — education and law enforcement — which he described as critical for national reforms. The CDC will coordinate with the National Reform Steering Assembly to determine whether other reform issues need to be covered in the charter.
If the charter is accepted at the referendum, the next step is to draft organic bills necessary for a general election.
However, those bills are expected to be completed next year, Mr Meechai said.
The CDC itself has a lot of explaining to do after the final draft is completed because several issues introduced in the charter are entirely new, he said.
There is no need for the government to rush to amend the interim charter to include what course of action will be taken if the draft charter is rejected at the planned referendum because it could affect the people’s vote, he said.
The CDC chairman expressed confidence the draft charter would pass the referendum. He reiterated that if it fails, those found to have distorted information and “cause misunderstandings” will be held responsible.
He called on politicians to put the national interest before their own political agendas.
“When we make changes, there are people who like them and those who don’t. I hope political parties will think about public interest first. They need to put their feelings aside and help push the country forward,” he said.
Mr Meechai insisted the charter needs to include a mechanism to handle a political deadlock but such a mechanism must be widely accepted.
He said several suggestions have been made but none of them are “appropriate” and the “five river bodies” may have to work it out together.
However, the CDC chairman ruled out a so-called crisis panel to deal with a political impasse, saying it was widely opposed when it proposed.
The crisis panel, which could override an elected government in the event of a severe political conflict, was proposed by the previous charter writing committee headed by Borwornsak Uwanno. It drew strong opposition from several parties.
He said the draft charter’s provisional chapter will deal with the work of independent agencies after the new constitution takes effect.
Pheu Thai’s Worachai Hema yesterday criticised Mr Meechai’s version of the charter, saying it is worse than Mr Borwornsak’s which was rejected by the defunct National Reform Council.
He said the Borwornsak draft at least proposed a partial election of senators while the Meechai draft opted to have representatives of 20 professional groups nominate their own senator candidates.
Mr Worachai said the Meechai draft is designed to curb the power of future elected governments.