By Teeranai Charuvastra
BANGKOK — The junta has asked drafters of the new constitution to include a blanket amnesty for any use of force deemed to protect state security.
The request is among 10 suggestions made public Wednesday to the Constitutional Drafting Committee as part of its process for writing a new charter, after the previous was dissolved when the regime seized power in May 2014.
While most of the items seem innocuous calls for democratic considerations such as more public participation and prime minister term limits, the seventh point urges drafters to insert a clause exempting the military from any civil, criminal or administrative punishment in the event that they use force in defense of national security.
“The state security policy must enshrine the duty of the state to preserve the monarchy and the independence, sovereignty and integrity of state power. Any honest use of force to preserve the security of the state from both domestic and external threats must be exempted from civil, criminal and administrative punishments,” the text reads.
The eighth point also vaguely urges the new constitution guarantee the “political rights” and “freedom of political expression” for military personnel, while the sixth point calls for a special measure to solve unspecified political “dead ends” and “vacuums,” reminiscent of the controversial “chaos clause” of the previous, failed draft document.
Samart Kaewmeechai, a member of the party which headed the former, toppled government, said he’s alarmed by these suggestions put forth by the junta, as it could be seen as coercing the new constitution’s authors.
He specifically raised his concern for the amnesty request.
“There’s no need to write that into the constitution, because if they really perform their duties honestly, they are already protected by the law,” said Samart, who has been appointed by the Pheu Thai Party to monitor the charter drafting process. “So, writing this kind of thing may signal some kind of an agenda. Who will judge what is honest and what is dishonest?”
But drafter-in-chief Meechai Ruchuphan told reporters yesterday the committee is not required to accept the junta’s proposals.
“We have to listen everyone and then think. It doesn’t mean we will only listen to the NCPO,” Meechai said, referring to the junta’s formal name, the National Council for Peace and Order. “I can assure you that the drafting of this constitution is not being done to satisfy those in power. I can guarantee you that a 100 percent. If there’s mistake, it will be only because of our foolishness.”
The junta has not publicly commented on the letter.
The following is the full text of the junta’s proposals to the drafting committee:
1. Definitions of important issues must be complete, clear and easily understood. They cannot be vague words that may risk inaccurate interpretation.
2. The constitution must not be too long. They should only cover important and necessary principles of state administration. A constitution that has too many details will only add complication to interpretation. The legislative branch should be tasked with a duty to issue laws to cover smaller details. However, the constitution should not be so short that it lacks important elements.
3. There should be methods to amend the constitution legally, so that the charter is flexible and ever appropriate to changing times. It will prevent any forceful or violent amendments of the constitution, especially coups d’etat.
4. The constitution should cover important principles of governance and politics, with processes to scrutinize political office holders’ performance of duty in a strict manner. There must not be distortion of correct principles to solving political crisis by extrajudicial means.
5. Citizens must truly be empowered. The people must matter beyond the periods immediately before and after elections.
6. Political problems, crises and conflicts can arise at any time. The constitution may fall into a dead-end situation. Therefore drafting the constitution should prescribe a way to cut through those dead ends in order to prepare for such situations, especially the problem of legislative, administrative and judicial vacuums, and enable the continuity of the national administration.
7. The state security policy must enshrine the duty of the state to preserve the monarchy and independence, sovereignty and integrity of state power. Any honest use of force to preserve the security of the state from both domestic and external threats must be exempted from civil, criminal and administrative punishments.
8. Civil servants and state officials, especially military personnel, must enjoy the same rights and freedom in every aspect as the civilians. They should not be stripped of their rights and freedoms, including the rights and freedom to political expression, because of their military professions.
9. The Prime Minister should be limited to serving only two terms of four years each in order to prevent any political monopoly or dictatorship. This will comply with term limits of prime ministers in democracies in civilized countries.
10. The problem of corruption must be opposed and eradicated from the country. Wrongdoers must be punished harshly. This value must be prescribed in the constitution in order to raise the conscience for the nation among the people and civil servants.
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