Meechai accuses 'certain party' of disrupting CDC campaign

Meechai accuses 'certain party' of disrupting CDC campaign

High school students (left) and Thammasat University protesters heckled constitution writer Meechai Ruchupan Tuesday, for which he quickly blamed
High school students (left) and Thammasat University protesters heckled constitution writer Meechai Ruchupan Tuesday, for which he quickly blamed "a certain (political) party". (Photos by Chairat Patcharatrirat)

Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Meechai Ruchupan says "a certain political party" is trying to disrupt a CDC campaign to educate the public about the draft constitution, which will have its fate decided in a referendum on Aug 7.

His comments came after two groups of protesters disrupted a CDC forum on the draft charter at Thammasat University's Rangsit campus Tuesday.

The CDC is now campaigning to publicise the draft charter after finalising the document and forwarding it to the government on March 29.

The draft charter has drawn flak from politicians, with the Pheu Thai Party among the most vocal critics. In a statement issued less than a day after the final charter draft was unveiled on March 29, Pheu Thai urged voters to reject the draft on the grounds that it is undemocratic and contains problematic provisions.

During his speech at the forum, Mr Meechai was first interrupted by a group of students who held up a placard saying "Don't hurt youth". They were led by high school student Prist Chiwarak from Triam Udom Suksa School, a leader of the Education for Independence group. University staff promptly escorted the teens out of the auditorium.

Mr Prist said he and his friends wanted to show their disapproval of the draft constitution, particularly a provision regarding the country's free education programme.

He had planned to read a letter to the CDC chairman to protest Section 54 of the draft, which stipulates that the state will subsidise free education from pre-school for three-year-olds to Mathayom 3, instead of from Prathom 1 to Mathayom 6 as is the case now.

Once the students were gone, Mr Meechai continued with his speech, only to be interrupted again by another group of protesters.

They wore paper masks with Gen Prayut's face and held up placards criticising the military regime and the CDC and calling for a boycott of the draft charter.

They were led by student activist Sirawith "Ja New" Serithiwat, the leader of the anti-coup New Democracy Movement. They too were escorted from the hall.

Speaking after the forum, Mr Meechai said that people are free to express their opinions and he had no problem with it as long as they did so with good intentions.

But if they acted on the order of someone else, they knew nothing about the meaning of freedom of expression, Mr Meechai said, adding that when the CDC revised the draft charter and gathered feedback from the public, these critics never shared their ideas on how to improve the draft.

He expected the publicity campaign for the draft charter will likely be disrupted again, adding in a thinly veiled reference to "a certain political party [that] is whipping up [opposition to the draft charter]".

Mr Meechai told the forum the draft charter puts in place tough measures to stamp out corruption and keep the government's exercise of power, particularly budget spending, in check.

"This is the reason they are against the draft. This makes them angry," Mr Meechai said.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday said he will order a probe to find out who was behind the move to disrupt the CDC forum.


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