DRAFTING A CONSTITUTION
Poll should precede new charter: law experts
Academics and legal experts yesterday urged interim Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont to call a general election as soon as possible after the formation of his interim government and hand the task of drafting a charter to the elected parliament.
This proposal is the reverse of the process established earlier by the Council of Democratic Reform (CDR), Somchai Siripreechakul, the dean of Chiang Mai University's Law Faculty, said.
The CDR had stated that an election would take place about a year after an interim government had been formed and completed its task of leading the constitution-drafting process.
Somchai said a constitution drafted under an interim government appointed by the CDR would not be a democratic one because of the lack of the principle of citizens' self-determination and free debate in its drafting process.
"How could people freely debate the pros and cons of a charter drafted under a state of martial law?" said Somchai.
"If someone disagreed with the draft, would they dare or be allowed to speak out? Democracy cannot exist without a noisy debate. I suggest the new government organise the freest and fairest election possible as soon as it can to return self determination to the Thai people."
Somchai was speaking at a public forum on "The Coup d'etat and the Rule of Law" at Thammasat University yesterday.
The forum attracted some 200 academics, students, activists and members of the public.
Prasit Piwawatanapanich of Thammasat University warned that the political and economic future of the country very much depended on whether the new government was recognised widely by the international community.
"International communities reserve the right to recognise the new [Thai] government. They care about its path to power," said Worachet Pakirat, another Thammasat law professor, who warned that wide public support for the coup and an apologetic tone in the media might set a new doctrine in society that the rule of force is an acceptable political norm that overshadows the rule of law.
"What's the point of drafting a new constitution if the new charter is treated only as something on paper that could get torn up any time Thai society wants a quick fix by force for political problems?
"If democracy is not in people's souls we might as well stop calling ourselves a democratic country."