NRC's Week-Long Charter Debate to be Broadcast Live

Thianchay Kiranandana, chairman of the National Reform Council (NRC), posed for photo with the draft of the new constitution, 17 April 2015

BANGKOK – The first public deliberation on the draft of Thailand's new constitution will be broadcast live throughout its entire session – which is expected to last for seven days – a government official said.

Members of the junta-appointed National Reform Council (NRC) will debate on the charter draft from 20 – 26 April at the Parliament building, said NRC secretary Alongkorn Pollabutr. Alongkorn said the session will start at around 9 am on each day and continue until 9 pm. 

"The chairman of the NRC wants the people to know about the deliberation of the constitution draft, so there will be a live broadcast via the parliament's TV and radio stations, the National Broadcasting Service of Thailand, or Channel 11, and we have also asked for cooperation from other state TV stations to broadcast it. As for private TV stations, if they are interested, they can link up with the signal and broadcast it as well." 

Thailand's previous constitution, which was enacted in 2007, was dissolved when the military staged a coup d'etat against an elected government in May 2014. The junta later imposed an interim charter and formed the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) to write a new "permanent" constitution for Thailand. The charter is expected to be completed in September this year.

Under the interim constitution, the NRC has the authority to suggest amendments to the constitution draft in its deliberation. Alongkorn said the NRC will discuss for 30 days whether there will be any amendment to the constitution, starting from the last day of the parliamentary deliberation. 

"Every NRC member will participate in the expression of opinion," Alongkorn told reporters today, "The people can also submit their suggestions to the NRC."

According to Alongkorn, the debate will be "constructive," devoid of any aggressive discussion or questioning about the draft, "because we are professional parliament, not a political parliament." He also expected that the debate will especially focus on issues about backgrounds of MPs, Senators, Prime Ministers, and electoral system in the new constitution. 

"This constitution is different to all the previous ones, because it is a constitution for reforms," Alongkorn explained. 

The new constitution has attracted criticism from anti-coup activists and scholars who say it is less democratic than Thailand's recent charters. According to the current draft, the Senate is an appointed body, and the Prime Minister does not need to be an elected MP. In the now-defunct 2007 constitution, a clause explicitly requires Prime Ministers to be elected MPs, and the Senate was a half-elected and half-appointed body. 

The junta, formally known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), has promised that an election will be held in early 2016 at the earliest, given that political climate is deemed stable. The NCPO has also vowed to implement national reforms and reconciliation before democracy is restored in the country. 

Asked whether recent bomb attacks will affect the NRC deliberation, Alongkorn said parliament officials have been maintaining a tight security since the twin bombing at Siam Paragon shopping mall on 1 February. 

"NRC members have to follow their mission, in order to help move our country forward," Alongkorn told reporters, "We will not waver, regardless of any violent incidents or harassment that may occur. I'd like to ask all sides to cease their violent actions, move beyond the conflict, and move forward together, because conflicts are not good for the country. We do not wish to see national reforms stumble now."