CDC tipped to veto 'hold onto power' proposal 

CDC tipped to veto 'hold onto power' proposal 

Analysis: Military stresses need to maintain peace

Chairman Meechai Ruchupan (foreground) appears ready to defy the military regime's
Chairman Meechai Ruchupan (foreground) appears ready to defy the military regime's "suggestion" to change the draft constitution to allow the junta to retain power after elections. (File photo)

The cabinet's controversial charter proposal seeking a special set of rules to allow the military-led government to maintain security during the transition to civilian rule is likely to be rejected by charter drafters, according to political observers.

Under the proposal, a temporary charter clause should be introduced to maintain peace and order after the general election and during the handover to a new government.

The proposal has drawn flak from virtually all sectors as critics see it as a move by the military government to exert control over a new government and prolong its hold on power.

Former charter drafter Sujit Boonbongkarn said if the charter is to give special powers to the present military regime after a new government takes office, it will have to be very specific about the scope.

"The CDC [Constitution Drafting Committee] will have to make very clear when the junta can intervene after an elected government is in office and very specific about its use of power in that it must be strictly for peacekeeping only, not for political bullying," he said.

"But I have doubts that the CDC will accept the cabinet proposal. The CDC is confident it has come up with a very good draft," said Mr Sujit, a member of the previous CDC led by Borwornsak Uwanno.

Ramkhamhaeng University rector Wutthisak Lapcharoensap said he sees the cabinet proposal as intended to provoke the CDC into considering a possible scenario in which the political divide persists.

He said the cabinet believes CDC chairman Meechai Ruchupan's current draft does not address this possibility.

"I think anyone can predict what could happen after the general election. No matter who [one of the two major parties] wins, street protests will return. How can we move forward?" he said.

Mr Wutthisak, also a member of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), said to be fair, the cabinet does not have to come up with such a proposal at all, pointing to Section 257 of the charter draft.

Section 257 stipulates that the NCPO will remain in office retaining their full powers as stipulated in the 2014 interim charter and its clauses until a new cabinet is formed after the general election. 

It is believed that the full powers of the NCPO chief include the invocation of the controversial Section 44.

"If they evaluate the situation after the election and conclude it's not good, the NCPO can use its power to resolve the problem," he said.

Former Democrat MP Thaworn Senneam said the CDC will not include the cabinet proposal in the charter.

According to Mr Thaworn, under the political roadmap set by the NCPO, the government has until July next year, or even a few more months, to finish what it intends to do. Moreover, the NCPO chief has sweeping powers under Section 44 of the interim charter.

"I'm sure the cabinet will eventually back down from its proposal. The CDC has a lot of experience in charter writing. We can't return to 'half-democracy'," said Mr Thaworn, an ex-leader of the now-dissolved People's Democratic Reform Committee. 

Sqn Ldr Prasong Soonsiri, who chaired the drafting committee responsible for drawing up the 2007 charter, is warning the military government against making any moves that reflects a desire to stay in power.

"Why do they need special powers when independent agencies are in place? They are the military and they have laws including martial law at their disposal if political violence emerges," he said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has stressed that the nation needs a special panel, or chamber of selected senators, for five years after a general election to ensure the new government follows the guidelines on national reform.

Such a guarantee is essential during the transition period, otherwise national reform plans would not be implemented, he said, adding reforms are for the people's best interests, not for his own.

"When the situation returns to normal, everything can go back to its former condition -- including a fully elected Senate. The thing is, the next government must imbue us with confidence. This is not for me, but for everyone," he said.

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