Charter writers agree to spell out community rights

Charter writers agree to spell out community rights

Opponents of the planned coal-fired power plant in Thepa district, Songkhla province, and the Rawai villagers from Phuket, led by the Southern People's Network (Permatamas), submit a proposal to constitutional writers at Parliament on Feb 15. They wanted the writers to add clauses to protect community rights in the draft. (Photo by Thanarak Khunton)
Opponents of the planned coal-fired power plant in Thepa district, Songkhla province, and the Rawai villagers from Phuket, led by the Southern People's Network (Permatamas), submit a proposal to constitutional writers at Parliament on Feb 15. They wanted the writers to add clauses to protect community rights in the draft. (Photo by Thanarak Khunton)

The Constitution Drafting Committee has agreed to spell out in the new draft communities' right to sue state agencies and the requirement for environmental and health impact assessments for all large projects following numerous complaints.

The move came after people in the provinces, environmental activists and academics had criticised the omissions of community rights provisions present in Section of 67 of the 2007 charter.

Charter writers explained earlier they had taken a different approach to protecting the rights. Instead of putting them in the Rights and Liberties chapter like in the previous constitution, they included them by implication in the State Duties chapter. While they claimed the effects were the same, activists and communities were not comfortable with the change.   

CDC spokesman Udom Rathamarit said on Monday the drafters had agreed to put back the omitted content in the chapter on rights and liberties of Thai people.

The first draft of the 270-section constitution omitted the applauded provisions of the 2007 charter, which requires that the state organise a public hearing to obtain opinions of community members, stakeholders and academics, and conduct environmental and health impact assessment (EIA and EHIA) study reports before carrying out any project which may affect communities.

The draft charter initially took out the portions requiring EIA and EHIA reports and independent agency input, only keeping the text requiring stakeholders' views.

Mr Udom said the right of a community to sue a state agency, state enterprise and local government organisation was added to Section 43 of the draft.

The CDC also included a similar provision from the 2007 charter which stated: "A person can invoke his or her judicial right to directly compel the state to comply with the provisions of this chapter". 

"We go back [to the 2007 charter] to assure people they can cite these constitutional provisions during trials," the spokesman said.

On academics' complaints about the omission of human dignity provisions, Mr Udom explained the drafters had not intended to abandon the human dignity but some details regarding the matter may have been written differently from the 2007 charter's text.

They then decided to add the text lifted from Section 4 of the previous charter which states: "Human dignity, rights, liberty, and equality of the people shall be protected".

Certain wording in the draft was also adjusted to clarify and broaden the definitions of rights, liberties and the quality of life, plus law enforcement, he said. 

The panel also resolved that the Constitutional Court would have a final say on legal disputes not being covered by the new constitution, Mr Udom said.


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