Divisions still intense as Thai reformers juggle with new charter

Divisions still intense as Thai reformers juggle with new charter

The National Reform Council (NRC) is about to hand the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) its suggested revisions to the draft constitution.

The CDC is expected to make the proposed changes in order to win endorsement from the NRC, a required process established by the post-coup provisional charter.

However, there are still many issues over which both the NRC and the CDC disagree with each other.

The NRC's political reform committee alone has come up with as many as 18 points that, it says, need revision. The panel wants to remove the recognition of political groups.

The constitution drafters seem to be proud of the inclusion of the term "citizens" in the draft charter. But NRC members criticised this and suggested the term be replaced with "people" or "individuals".

The NRC also disagreed with a provision that would require a minimum one-third of women candidates in the party list of the proportional representation election.

Moreover, the new German-inspired electoral system was opposed by the NRC, which suggested all the 500 MPs should be from constituencies.

As for the senatorial election, many NRC members agreed that senators should be directly elected by eligible voters.

There were calls for the drafters to state in the new constitution that communication frequencies and petroleum were national resources and public assets, with citizens being entitled to retrieve them for the public's benefit.

Regarding the fight against corruption, there is a proposal to merge the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) - with the commissioners being increased from nine to 11. There is also a proposal for a corruption division to be established in the courts of justice.

Some members of the NRC believed the draft constitution was too long and should be shortened. They agreed that details of implementation on certain matters should rather be in organic laws to the constitution to be written later.

It is interesting to see how seriously the constitution drafters would pay attention to the NRC members' suggestions. Although both groups were appointed by the National Council for Peace and Order and 20 out of the 35 CDC members are also NRC members, they have recently been in discord.

There is considerable risk of the draft constitution being rejected by the NRC. If that is the case, the process of constitution drafting will have to start anew.

The NCPO and the Cabinet have just agreed to support holding a national referendum on the draft constitution. But they have not made it clear how they want such a plebiscite to be organised. Therefore, things will still remain unclear for the moment.

The post-coup interim charter will be amended to extend the deadline for the CDC to revise the final draft, from 60 days at present to 90 days. This would allow the drafters some more breathing space.

It may also be an attempt by the powers-that-be to improve their situation. They want both the NRC and the CDC to make convenient progress in an uneasy situation like this. More importantly, they do not have to use their "trump card" now. At least they have some more time and can wait until it is right for them.

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