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Draft gets Democrats' vote

Party says new charter offers better protection of human, political rights

Published on July 9, 2007

Draft gets Democrats' vote

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and key members yesterday announce the party’s decision to support the draft constitution. They say rejecting the charter would give the junta more power.

The Democrat Party yesterday spoke out in support of the constitution draft, saying rejecting it would give the junta more power.

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva announced the party's stance following a meeting of its constitution working committee.

Abhisit said the party considered the new constitution similar to the 1997 charter, but with improvements for public rights and political participation.

Speaking to a news conference after the meeting, Abhisit said the overall structure of the draft was similar to the 1997 version, especially provisions related to civil rights and liberties, independent organisations and the parliamentary system.

But, the new document will tackle political problems that emerged during the term of the previous charter and there are better protections for civil rights and liberties, he said.

Abhisit added the draft provided for public checks and balances through parliament while enhancing voter participation by making it easier for them to seek impeachment of politicians as well as propose new laws.

He said it tackled some of the drawbacks of the 1997 Constitution by allowing non-university degree holders to contest elections and Cabinet members to sit in the House.

It will improve state spending and enhance local administrations, he said.

The Democrats will prepare a statement of charter pros and cons and distribute it to members. "This won't be a campaign for or against the draft but simply information about the good and the bad [points] of the charter," Abhisit said.

He denied the party was trying to curry favour with the junta. "If we wanted to please the Council for National Security we would reject the draft so it could pick a charter of its own choosing.

"If we reject the draft, it will be like handing out power to the council. We have come up with this stand because we care about the national interest and want democracy to be restored soon," he said.

Abhisit said a referendum rejection would delay an election by at least a month.

Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, meanwhile, denied soldiers would be out drumming up voter support for the referendum.

"It's not true," Surayud said in response to allegations made by Chaturon Chaisang, leader of the Thai Rak Thai Group.

"We are not trying to influence the outcome of the referendum." He had met provincial people and said they wanted an election soon.

"But, an election must come after the referendum," Surayud said.

The prime minister added a referendum law would not force voters to exercise their right.

Thai Rak Thai spokesman, Kuthep Saikrajang, said it had appointed Surapong Sueb-wonglee to run its anti-draft campaign.

The Thai Rak Thai believes the draft is "less democratic and less advanced than the 1997 Constitution" and will weaken the political power of the next government.

He said the next elected government would likely be a flimsy coalition easily influenced by the military. The draft gives too much power to the bureaucracy, too, he added.

Kuthep called on junta leader Sonthi Boonyaratglin to stop alleging the Thai Rak Thai paid anti-coup protesters Bt500 each.

In a related development, Interior Minister Aree Wong-searaya said the Constitution Drafting Assembly could ask his ministry to publicise the referendum.

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