Big changes for charter suggested by Thailand Cabinet

Big changes for charter suggested by Thailand Cabinet
Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha

The Cabinet yesterday proposed about 100 revisions to the draft constitution and suggested that the new charter should help promote national reform, prevent political conflict and improve justice in politics.

The proposed drastic changes included reduced power for unelected senators, dropping recognition of political groups and deleting the clauses on the establishment of political ethics bodies.

But the Cabinet left intact the clause that allows a non-MP to become prime minister and the clause on open-list and mixed-member proportional-representation voting.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said the Cabinet submitted its proposals to the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) yesterday.

Of the some 100 revisions suggested, half involve changes to the wording of clauses, such as prepositions, while the other half involve bigger principles, according to Wissanu.

The Cabinet requested the CDC place new independent organisations under an organic law or another law instead of in the constitution. The Cabinet did not ask the drafters to axe the new bodies.

Wissanu said the new constitution should be able to provide answers to three principles: how to pass on the government's national reform and other important plans to the next administration; how to prevent old disputes and conflicts from repeating; and how to create better justice in politics.

Yesterday's Cabinet meeting at Government House lasted three hours. Cabinet members mostly discussed their proposals on altering the charter draft.

The deputy PM suggested the new charter should also focus on how to create a political system that prevented political parties and governments from abusing populist policies, buying votes, and creating inequality in society.

Wissanu said any new suggestions or proposals by the Cabinet should not result in the charter exceeding its existing 315 articles.

He added that if there were new proposals from the Cabinet and the CDC drafted them accordingly, the public may think the charter drafters had received the blueprints from the Cabinet and the government, which would be untrue.

The deputy PM said he would go into details later, insisting the public would be informed thoroughly on the Cabinet's proposals.

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha insisted that he and the Cabinet were truly focused on effectively passing on the junta government's plan for the next government because without national reform, the whole process would be a waste of time.

"The Cabinet is concerned with how to deliver the measures, plans and processes of national reform. The government is pushing forward and it will lead to more practical matters under the next government," the PM stressed.

Meanwhile, a joint meeting of the National Reform Council's subcommittees on political and legal reform resolved yesterday to suggest to the CDC that the new constitution have just 100 articles.

Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, chairman of the NRC's political reform panel, said participants of the meeting wanted more details to be included in the constitution's organic laws.

He said that the panels also agreed that the prime minister must be an elected MP only. This is contrary to the draft charter, which allows for a non-elected prime minister.

The panels also proposed dropping articles 181 and 182, which would empower the PM to issue special laws, and suggested that there should be 500 MPs - 400 elected from constituencies and 100 via party-list vote.

As many as 129 revisions to the draft constitution were proposed by the two panels, according to Nirun Pantarakit, of the NRC's political reform panel.

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