Charter Draft Second Look: Full Education No Longer Guaranteed (Analysis)

Students campaign for restoring the right to free, full education through the Mathayom 6 level in images posted to social media. Education for Liberation / Facebook

By Pravit Rojanaphruk
Senior Staff Writer

BANGKOK — Digging deeper into the recently released draft charter’s 279 articles finds caveats applied to basic civil rights, education funding that falls three years short of completing secondary school and obstacles to amending the constitution.

Article 54 cuts mandatory funding for the last three years of secondary education (Mathayom 4-6), meaning children would only be guaranteed schooling to about age 15. To complete high school, families would have to pay. While the state would still subsidize 12 years of education, they would begin earlier with three years of kindergarten.

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The move has upset some student activists such as recent grad Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, who said said education access would be jeopardized by the proposed article. Many parents, the 19-year-old said, would be unable to afford paying out of pocket for the three years of upper secondary school.

Defending the change, head charter drafter Meechai Ruchupan said it’s more important to invest in early education.

But with decent jobs difficult to come by for those who don’t complete the full six years through to Mathayom 6, it’s unclear where the new system would lead Thailand.


Citizen Rights and Duties

On citizen’s rights, Article 4 states that Thai citizens would enjoy equal protection under the constitution. No mention is made of the guarantees for non-Thai citizens living in the kingdom.

Article 30 states that civilians can be forcibly conscripted as laborers not only in times of war but anytime an emergency decree or martial law is in effect.

Free expression is guaranteed in Article 34, unless it needs to be suspended to “maintain peace and order.” We don’t know what laws could be passed in the name of maintaining peace and order, thus leaving a clear loophole. Same for the right to peaceful of assembly guaranteed under Article 44, which can likewise be revoked in the name of state security.

Press freedom is addressed by Article 35. It states that newspapers cannot be shut down by the state, which cannot screen any printed news prior to publication unless the kingdom is in a declared state of war.

On a positive note, Article 39 states that Thai citizens cannot be expelled from the kingdom. Thai nationals also cannot be prevented from entering the kingdom, nor can citizens by birth ever lose their citizenship.

Unity, peace and order are prioritized by Article 50 as “duties” of Thais. Article 50.6 states vaguely without any legal precision that Thais should not cause division or hate in society and should not support any form of graft and corruption.

When it comes to the duties of the Thai state, Article 52 obligates it to protecting the monarchy, sovereignty and “peace and order of the people.” It requires the state to achieve this through effective military, diplomatic and intelligence gathering efforts.

There are some positive developments, such as in Article 72.3, which requires the state to distribute land holdings fairly, so people can have adequate access. Sounds good in spirit, but won’t mean much without strong organic laws and will to see them carried out.


Byzantine Amendment Process

In the end, if the junta-sponsored charter draft is adopted, anyone still unhappy with it can work to amend it. First, Article 256 states, they’ll need to find 49,999 other eligible voter friends to initiate an amendment motion as per.

That motion would have to be taken up three times in the House of Parliament and ultimately endorsed by its members. At its third and final reading, the amendment would be adopted if:

1. More than half the members endorse it

2. That majority contains 20 percent of the MPs from all represented parties

3. A third of the 250-member senate (mostly indirectly appointed by the junta for the first five-year term) go for it

Whether one is predisposed to supporting or rejecting the draft charter, reading all 105 pages and 279 articles is a useful and responsible exercise to making up one’s mind before it comes up for vote.


Here’s the final draft released Tuesday by the Constitution Drafting Committee (Thai)