Ong-art issues charter caution 

Ong-art issues charter caution 

Stop sending orders to drafters, Democrats say

Democrat Party deputy leader Ong-art Klampaibul called for more public participation in preparing the draft constitution. (Photo via Facebook)
Democrat Party deputy leader Ong-art Klampaibul called for more public participation in preparing the draft constitution. (Photo via Facebook)

Democrat deputy leader Ong-art Klampaibul cautioned the military regime on Sunday not to force the charter drafters to make any last-minute changes to the draft to keep what remains of its legitimacy intact.

His remark came after the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) confirmed it had wrapped up the final draft which will be forwarded to the government and unveiled to the public Tuesday.

Less than two weeks ago, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) submitted a charter proposal to the CDC seeking a fully-appointed Senate which was to include six armed forces top brass, for a five-year transitional period with the power to hold a no-confidence debate against an elected government.

The CDC caved in to the NCPO's demand for the appointed Senate but stood firm that the upper House should not take part in a censure debate.

"There shouldn't be any orders sent to the CDC otherwise the charter's legitimacy will be further diminished," said Mr Ong-art.

The latest Suan Dusit Poll also showed respondents offered mixed opinions about the appointed Senate.

Based on the CDC's formula, the NCPO will appoint 194 of 400 candidates to be shortlisted by a special nine-member panel and select another 50 from another pool of candidates who will represent 20 professional groups at provincial and national levels. The six other seats are reserved for the chiefs of the three armed forces and the Supreme Command, the defence permanent secretary and the police chief.

In the poll carried out between Tuesday and Saturday, a total of 1,326 respondents were asked about the strong and weak points of appointing senators.

On the strong points, the respondents saw the selection method as a way to ensure the chamber is represented by diverse groups of people.

The appointed Senate would also carry on with public policies initiated by the government.

On the weak points, the respondents described the method as undemocratic. Some were concerned about possible nepotism in the selection process.

Mr Ong-art urged the public to focus on specific issues the CDC has tried to address.

They are rights and civil liberties, checks and balances between the legislature and the executive, mechanisms to reign in corruption and abuse of power, the balance of powers between the three branches and the groundwork for national reforms.

According to the Democrat, public participation should be better protected and strengthened as it is instrumental to fighting corruption and it could also be a deciding factor at a charter referendum.

He also called on all sides to put public interest before their own when discussing the constitution ahead of the referendum.

He said the military regime should also allow freedom of expression to guarantee the referendum outcome, no matter how it turns out, will be acceptable.

According to the CDC, a general election will take place 150 days from the date on which the charter comes into effect. Four organic laws governing the elections of MPs, senator screening, political parties and the Election Commission will be completed first.

This is to ensure the NCPO's political roadmap 6-4-6-4 (six months for drafting the charter, four months to prepare for the referendum, six months to draft organic laws and four months to prepare for the polls) will not be derailed.

Suriyasai Katasila, deputy dean of Rangsit University's Social Innovation College, said the provisional clauses on "special mechanisms during the transitional period" are overshadowing other core elements in the constitution.

It is possible these clauses could be played up during the months prior to the referendum and become a deciding factor, he said, noting some groups could use them to undermine the charter.

"The CDC emphasises that the charter caters to every stakeholder, so there must be something substantial in the draft that shows it. Let's wait for the final draft and see if it's better," he said.

Pheu Thai's Surapong Tovichakchaikul took the government to task on Sunday for turning a deaf ear to criticism of the draft charter.

He said while the regime is apparently following its political roadmap to democracy, the proposed new rules and a referendum process to endorse those rules have raised questions.

Mr Surapong, a former foreign minister, said he feels bad for Thais because the military junta does not heed public comments and instead pushes through what it wants.

CDC spokesman Amorn Wanichwiwatana said the charter writers will go through the final draft Monday and make sure there are no mistakes.

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