Interim Parliament to Submit Opinions on New Charter

Bowornsak Uwanno, chairman of the CDC, briefs the NLA about the constitution drafting, 5 March 2015

BANGKOK — The junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly (NLA) will convene for a two-day meeting to reach a consensus on the new charter before presenting a collective opinion to the drafting committee on 25 May.

NLA deputy chairman Surachai Liangboonlertchai said the assembly will meet on 15-16 May to discuss various aspects of the charter, including the requirements for Prime Ministers, MPs, and Senators, the power of independent watchdog agencies, and the dissolution of the National Human Rights Commission.

They will also discuss whether or not to put the charter up for a referendum vote, he said. 

"As for the means to reach the consensus, we may use voting or other methods. We will have to discuss this in the meeting," Surachai told reporters yesterday. "When the NLA reaches a consensus, we will submit our opinions to the Constitution Drafting Committee on 25 May."

The junta-appointed CDC was tasked with writing a new charter for Thailand shortly after the May 2014 coup. The junta, which toppled a democratically-elected government, also installed the NLA to function as an interim parliament.

Critics say the current charter draft – Thailand's 20th – is less democratic than previous constitutions in recent decades. According to the current draft, Prime Ministers are not required to be elected MPs, the Senate will not be directly elected by the public, and unelected watchdog agencies such as a ‘Moral Assembly’ will have power to scrutinize policies passed by parliament.

When asked whether he would be disappointed if junta chairman and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha disagreed with the NLA’s opinions, Surachai replied, "We won't be disappointed. The Prime Minister has to look at the big picture in solving problems for the country, especially in matters of peace and order. We have to respect the Prime Minister as the decision-maker."

Surachai also told reporters that the Cabinet and junta will have the final say on whether there will be referendum. 

"In my reading, there is a lot of interest in referendum in society," Surachai said. "But in details, the society has not given clear answer on whether the referendum would cover the entire charter or just specific sections, and what they would want if the charter fails the vote."

Meanwhile, former Pheu Thai MP Samart Kaewmeechai said Pheu Thai leaders will submit their own opinions to the CDC about the new charter. Samart said the Pheu Thai Party will voice its disagreement over many clauses.

"[The charter] will cause the government after the election to lack stability," Samart said yesterday. "Prime Ministers will lack leadership. Independent agencies will spend more time finding faults than inspecting the government. In the end, the country will reach a dead end. It will affect the economy. Investors will not have confidence. Ultimately, there will be extra-legal method to dissolve the constitution again, and a new constitution will have to be drafted. It will be an endless cycle."

 
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