Critics worry about return of 'crisis panel'

Critics worry about return of 'crisis panel'

Meechai Ruchupan, head of the Constitution Drafting Committee, says he needs to provide ways to go outside elected government to deal with future political deadlock. (Post Today photo)
Meechai Ruchupan, head of the Constitution Drafting Committee, says he needs to provide ways to go outside elected government to deal with future political deadlock. (Post Today photo)

The Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) will this week work on the provisional and final chapter of the draft charter amid concern the highly controversial crisis panel proposal will reappear.

The crisis panel proposed by the previous CDC led by Borwornsak Uwanno was intended to break a political impasse but gave rise to fears it could override the government's power.

The panel would have included the military top brass but was seen as undemocratic. It is thought to be one of the reasons the previous draft charter was rejected by the National Reform Council, now defunct.

Critics are concerned such elements will prolong the military junta's power, leading to what is called "a state within a state" and legitimise coups. However, the crisis body is in line with the requirements set by the interim charter which demand mechanisms for the prevention of conflicts and effective implementation of reforms.

The body carries four core functions of ending disputes stemming from different interpretations of the constitution; mitigating a conflict that could result in a failed state; pushing for implementation of reform proposals; and putting in place mechanisms to promote reconciliation.

The CDC under Meechai Ruchupan's leadership will have to decide on what charter mechanisms answer to the interim charter, especially after the National Council of Peace and Order sent a list of suggestions which say the new charter should provide the leeway to break a political impasse.

The draft charter has apparently addressed the first two functions and they are incorporated in various parts of the charter, instead of being bundled together as a crisis panel.

According to the CDC head, the Constitutional Court will be given the power to make rulings where there is difference of opinions concerning constitutionality. Section 7 of the charter which critics saw as prone to exploitation by opposing political groups to break a crisis has also been rewritten to leave no room for dispute or doubt.

Agencies concerned will be allowed to seek the court's intervention if they suspect a dispute can lead to a crisis, without waiting for it to happen first.

On mitigating a conflict that could result in a failed state, the Meechai draft sets out to reduce social and economic disparity which is seen as a root cause of conflicts. There are requirements for the state to provide people with fundamental rights and mechanisms against unfair distribution of the state budget.

On the reform issue, the charter drafters will compile proposals from various parties before incorporating them in the charter. Core reform work, for example, will be listed as one of the state's tasks and those failing to comply will be held to account.

The CDC is also expected to consider a proposal calling for intervention from the heads of the country's three courts -- the Supreme Court, the Supreme Administrative Court and the Constitutional Court -- when there is a political stalemate involving the government.

The idea is similar to a fresh charter proposal in which independent agencies will be given the power to warn the government about policy risks. The government will not be able to deny responsibility if it takes no action and the policy proves damaging to the country.

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