The Quixotic Quest to Alternative Charter Drafting

The alternative charter drafters at their meeting in Bangkok on Thursday.

By Pravit Rojanaphruk
Senior Staff Writer

BANGKOK — By all accounts, the two-dozen participants at the parallel charter drafting process are critical of the military junta. They know that the chances of the junta-appointed Charter Drafting Committee accepting any of their recommendations are slim.

However, they ploughed ahead with their project to deliberate on an ideal constitution.

One of the participants told me there are two kinds of people who are critical of the junta’s sponsored charter drafting process.

“There’re those who think it is pointless joining a [parallel] deliberation like ours to make proposals to the charter drafters. On the other hand, the second type of person will deliberate and come up with stances on what their ideal constitution ought to look like,” said human rights lawyer Surapong Konchantuk, chairperson of Cross Cultural Foundation.

Surapong apparently belongs to the latter group as he spent a day on Thursday in Bangkok with twenty other people from various parts of the kingdom in a process led by Mahidol peace and human rights expert Gothom Arya, with support from some key members of Mahidol University’s Institute of Human Rights and Peace and the Law Reform Commission.

 

Concerned Citizens

Chief among their concerns were how long the junta-sponsored draft charter will be in effect before it can be democratically and legitimately amended, if not replaced, by a new democratic charter if it is approved through the national referendum, slated for early 2017.

They also discussed whether ethnic and religious minorities will truly enjoy equal rights and how to limit the authority and role of the senate which will likely be selected instead of elected. Also on the table: how to ensure that people can more effectively propose legislature, how to ensure that court verdicts can be earnestly criticized and more.

One participant from the far south said some Muslim school girls and women are still being barred from wearing hijab by schools or employers and any new constitution should ensure religious rights are respected.

Their recommendations are being submitted to the junta’s appointed charter drafting committee, and they will wait and see whether the first draft of the charter to be released by the drafting committee on Jan. 29 will accommodate any of their recommendations.

The parallel charter group will meet again on Feb. 11 and deliberate further to come up with a detailed outline of their charter, plus more recommendations to the junta’s charter drafters.

Many participants of the parallel process believe it’s better than doing nothing, although some admit that they would not be too surprised if the junta’s charter drafters don’t entertain any of the suggestions at all. Others said it’s more a dialogue with the public.

“I would be content if the charter drafters just read our recommendations,” said one, sounding ambivalent about the outcome of the process.

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