BANGKOK – The chairman of the Redshirt movement's official organization has urged his supporters to prioritize establishing a democratic constitution, even if that means postponing the national elections tentatively scheduled for early 2016.
In a lengthy post published on his official Facebook account, Jatuporn Prompan, chairman of the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), warned that organizing an election under the current draft of the constitution could endanger the country.
The new constitution was drafted by a panel appointed by the military junta, which seized power from the Redshirt-backed government last May. The charter is currently being deliberated by the National Reform Council, whose members were also selected by the junta. The constitution is expected to be completed by September this year.
The military regime says an election will be held in early 2016, given that the political climate is stable.
Jatuporn and other critics have slammed the charter’s anti-democratic features, such as a clause that allows MPs to appoint an unelected Prime Minister, the establishment of an unelected Senate, and the establishment of various unelected "independent" watchdog agencies.
The following is Jatuporn's Facebook statement in full:
I would like to speak my voice to all of the professional election-runners: enough. Do not call for an election without caring about its rules. Because we have clearly seen that an election under the draft of the constitution that is being deliberated by the NRC is not only [problematic] in regards to the Prime Minister, Senate, and Members of Parliament, but also in other mechanisms and aspects. Many sides have expressed their feeling about these issues, including the court of justice, the Administrative Court, police, the National Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsman, and other civil sectors. They all have seen the various dangers in the constitution.
By danger I mean is this: I cannot accept any further [loss] again in my life. I have been through two events. May 1991: 40 people dead, 40 more missing. I and my friends have seen deaths of the people. We had to attend funerals. We felt pain. We didn't have the strength to just attend classes. And more recently was the events between April – May 2010, in which around 100 people were killed and 2,000 injured. And today, the political situation is leading to deaths and losses that are beyond my feelings to accept. Throughout all the time on this road, in some periods we had fought to the point that there were blood in our eyes. But we should now talk about preventing deaths and losses in the future. We should talk about it in the days that we can still do something about it.
Therefore, I'd like to tell all the professional election-runners, tell myself, tell my friends and the people: do not long for an election that does not give power to the people. Because, in the 2015 constitution, apart from the background of Prime Ministers, MPs, and Senators, there are also 11 independent [watchdog agencies] that wield far more power than what was described in the 2007 constitution. The 2007 constitution has caused great damages, as is apparent in memories of the Thai people. But the 2015 constitution will be far more damaging.
Do not be afraid that a delayed election will damage the country. Be afraid that a quick election under undemocratic rules will cause far more damages, in an unmatched way. We all wish to see a good, correct, and fair constitution, with rights and liberty that will lead to equality and fraternity that will take place in this society, so that we can coexist peacefully, so that the country can recover from the political situation back to normalcy, so that Thailand will be able to stand proudly in the ranks of ASEAN, of Asia, and of the world community.
Jatuporn's remarks came a day after he and several dozen other politicians, activists, and academics attended a forum organized by the military in Bangkok yesterday.
After the meeting, Worachai Hema, another Redshirt leader and former Pheu Thai MP, similarly told reporters he would accept postponing the election if it meant fixing the current charter draft’s flaws.
"We can accept a delayed election, but the constitution has to be democratic," Worachai said after emerging from the forum, which was held at Army Club. Reporters were not allowed inside the venue.
Wirat Kalayasit, head of the rival Democrat Party's legal division, told reporters that Pheu Thai and Democrat Party politicians agreed in the meeting that the election could be delayed for "two to three years."
Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan, deputy chairman of the military junta, said he could not comment on the possible postponement of the poll, or whether the charter will be subject to a referendum.
"We have to follow our roadmap," Gen. Prawit said. "I don't know about that because the constitution doesn't say anything about it," Gen. Prawit said. "Therefore, whether a referendum is possible or not, I don't know. I am not an expert on laws, so I cannot answer. But if we stick to the constitution, it doesn't say anything about referendum."
Then-army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha overthrew the Redshirt-backed government last May, citing a responsibility to restore public order and prevent further bloodshed between the rival protest groups that were rallying in Bangkok at the time.
In response to the anti-government protesters who called for establishing an unelected "people's council" to implement national reforms before the next election, Redshirt supporters had gathered in Bangkok to demonstrate their support for holding elections first.
Although the junta denies supporting either political faction, critics say the military has largely enacted the agenda of the anti-government protesters by suspending democracy to pursue national reconciliation and reform.