'No time to listen to everyone'
The request by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to present its findings about what the new constitution should entail was turned down by the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) yesterday.
The committee said there simply was not enough time to allow all individual groups and organisations to present their views. It has, however, asked the rights body to forward its recommendations to all 35 charter writers instead.
"Time is limited, but there are so many groups who want to meet me at the moment," CDC chairman Prasong Soonsiri told his fellow drafters. "If we accepted one group we would have to accept them all, otherwise we'd be in trouble."
Many other drafters took turns in expressing similar opinions, with Pairoj Phromsarn warning "there will be no end" to listening to various groups if they allowed the NHRC to meet the panel.
Yesterday, a group of Buddhist monks and lay people came to urge the committee to make Buddhism a state religion, part of a growing number of interest groups who want their issues to be addressed by the new charter.
The CDC also discussed various issues under the framework of rights, liberty and participation for the new constitution.
Inconclusive discussions took place over whether the period of compulsory education should be set at nine or 12 years. Those opposing 12 years said Thailand might not be able to afford it, while proponents argued 12 years' minimum education would reduce vote-buying and make the electorate more independent.
"The 1997 constitution guaranteed 12 years of education, so we can't give less than that," said drafter Krerkiate Pipatseritham.
The issue of community rights received general support.
Chuchai Suphawong, chairman of the drafters' panel on rights, liberty and participation said that a community should be able to take legal action against those who damage it. "We must find ways to enable people to truly exercise their rights and liberty."
Chuchai concluded that local administrative bodies were still under the influence of political parties.
"Local people have not been adequately encouraged to be strong," he said, adding that the subcommittee wanted to further the process of decentralisation made under the 1997 charter, and clearly stipulate the minimum qualification of those wanting to become administrators of local administrative bodies.
The subcommittee also wants future leaders to be required to discuss with Parliament and the public before signing important treaties such as free-trade agreements, due to their possible adverse repercussions on the majority of people.