Pheu Thai comes down on charter

The Pheu Thai Party has strongly criticised the draft constitution, saying it contains provisions that would bode ill for the future of democracy and the economy.

In a statement released yesterday, Pheu Thai said the new charter did not respect the sovereign power of the people and sought to ensure the coup-makers' continuation in power through a largely unelected Senate and a provision for "outsider" prime minister.

The statement, signed by Pol Lt-General Viroj Paoin, the caretaker Pheu Thai leader, was addressed to Borwornsak Uwanno , chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee.

In the statement, Pheu Thai said that although the CDC had amended some articles as requested by various parties, including the Pheu Thai Party, key provisions retained in the draft charter would ensure that there could not be a national reconciliation and Thai democracy would become backward.

The party said the latest version of the draft charter still allowed an unelected person to become prime minister while 123 out of 200 members of the Senate - which would have wide-ranging powers including the power to appoint and impeach people in many important positions and approve legislature - were selected.

The party added that the appointed Senate members would be chosen by the current Cabinet of Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha and would have three-year terms, thus ensuring that the current regime would continue its hold on power through the Senate's control of the next government.

It also ensured that the current regime would play a pivotal role in appointing the so-called committee for strategic reform and reconciliation under the new draft charter.

"It can be seen that organs that have no links to the people are being used to control a government elected by the people," Pheu Thai said.

The party added that the draft charter ensured that citizens would be deprived of their fundamental political rights and opportunities and that future governments would be weak, not only affecting democracy but also leading to a poor economy.

The party called on the CDC to ensure that the charter did not allow unelected groups to inherit the powers of the coup-makers.

It also said that no particular political party should be unfairly punished under the new charter, adding the idea of retroactively punishing those found to have violated electoral laws was not acceptable.

The party urged the CDC to trust the will and judgement of the people, instead of effectively having unelected bodies such as most of the Senate acting as a superboard, wielding wide-ranging, unchecked powers over elected representatives of the people.

Thailand, it added, had gone through many constitutions over the past two decades and most of them expressed a wish to have the prime minister chosen from a pool of elected representatives.

In a related development, CDC spokesman Kamnoon Sidhisamarn said the CDC would make its final consideration on the transitional provisions of the draft charter tomorrow.

The transitional provisions - Articles 273 to 285 - are important, as they would be effective for a period of up to five years, said Kamnoon.

The CDC will be hearing the opinions of the Cabinet and the National Reform Council on the charter on Wednesday and Thursday instead of tomorrow until Wednesday as earlier scheduled.