Constitution needs fixing to decentralise power, boost democracy, say politicians

politics May 12, 2018 01:00


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REPRESENTATIVES from three political parties yesterday agreed that the 2017 Constitution should be amended to not only decentralise power to people but also to enable “genuine democracy” in Thailand, while a fourth politician said the country is stuck with the new charter for now.

“The biggest problem is that this Constitution is not democratic, from its origin to its contents,” Future Forward Party’s co-founder Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit said at a forum.

“There is also little hope to actually fix this charter in the future.”

Written by the junta, the 2017 charter has been criticised for not adequately endorsing people’s rights and for introducing mechanisms that will very likely weaken the bargaining power of politicians while empowering the military faction in parliament.

The charter also requires that any amendment must gain approval from the Senate, which will be selected by the junta, thus making it harder to change.

The charter was approved in a 2016 referendum amid criticism that the campaign was too tightly controlled, turning the vote into a ritual to legitimise the junta-written draft rather than to actually seek input from citizens.

Thanathorn said that politicians should gather to publicly critique the controversial charter as parliamentary opposition alone may not be sufficient.

“I think that the only way is to increase society’s awareness that this charter should be revoked as it has no connection to people,” he said. “The new charter should also be written to curb the military [from involvement] in politics to prevent any future coup.”

Chart Thai Pattana Party’s key man Warawut Silpa-archa and Pheu Thai Party ex-MP Kattiya Sawasdipol hailed the 1997 constitution as a good model for being people-based and endorsing people’s engagement in politics.

“I would suggest that the Constitutional Drafting Assembly should be set up again,” Warawut said, referring to the popularly elected group of 1997 charter drafters, that led to the document being nicknamed the “people’s constitution”.

Kattiya thought the 1997 charter could even be ressurected. “The flaw in the current charter is that it mobilises a 20-year strategy plan, which I think is too long-term and would not be able to keep up with the fast-changing pace of change,” she said.

Democrat Party ex-MP Ratchada Thanadirek suggested that people would have to live with the current charter for now. “However, what we could do is promote decentralisation of power, which will help solve social inequality,” Ratchada said.

Speaking at a forum held at Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus, the four politicians said that promoting increased equality is crucial to ensuring that living standards are more uniform in rural and urban areas.

Decentralising power would also help make social opportunities more accessible to a wider range of people, they said.

“In matters of education, for instance, the state has centralised how history has been taught,” Thanathorn said.

“And there is little mention of the 1932 ‘Siamese revolution’ or the Thammasat University massacre in 1976. This kind of teaching curbs our right to education.”

The government should only facilitate education welfare, such as maintaining free compulsory education, and refrain from meddling in content taught in school, he added.