Abhisit Vejjajiva
Abhisit Vejjajiva

Doubts over ‘graft-busting’ charter

politics May 17, 2018 01:00


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Abhisit dismisses claims of 2017 constitution being ‘anticorruption’; calls it ‘marketing ploy’

VETERAN POLITICIANS say they are not convinced the Constitution can live up to its drafters’ claim of suppressing corruption.

However, a law professor who sat on the previous constitution drafting panel asserts the current charter will combat graft by preventing crooked people from entering politics – given the tough constitutional requirements for political officeholders.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the term “corruption-suppressing constitution” used for the present charter was just a “marketing ploy”.

The charter was promoted by the Constitution Drafting Commission, particularly its chairman Meechai Ruchupan, as a “corruption-suppressing constitution”.

Former prime minister Abhisit said that in reality the Constitution would not actually help combat graft as claimed. He pointed to clauses in the charter that he said would weaken rather than strengthen the fight against corruption.

Abhisit said, unlike its predecessor, this Constitution does not require that impeachment be sought against Cabinet members who are accused of corruption in a no-confidence debate. He said that censure debates alone would not lead to removal of corrupt Cabinet members as they would naturally get majority House support from government MPs.

Also, the Constitution does not allow MPs to directly sue any member of the National Anti-Corruption Commission suspected of failing to perform their duty, Abhisit noted. Any complaint must be submitted through the Parliament president, which makes it difficult for whistle-blowing politicians, he added.

Abhisit also said that although the Constitution has a clause that encourages public members to take part in scrutinising political officeholders, it is not easy for them to do so.

He was speaking during a panel discussion, “Will the Corruption-Suppressing Constitution Actually Work?”, held at Bangkok’s Miracle Grand Hotel. The event was organised by the National Legislative Assembly’s committee on political affairs, Public Administration Association, and National Institute of Development Administration (Nida).

Phongthep Thepkanjana, a key figure from the Pheu Thai Party, said the claim of suppressing corruption was “just propaganda” for the Constitution, which has been in effect since April last year. 

He viewed that the charter instead contains some provisions that actually promote corruption, particularly Article 265 that guarantees the ruling junta’s power to issue orders that are regarded as law. 

Phongthep, who previously served as deputy prime minister and justice minister, suggested that the charter must be amended to allow easier scrutiny of people in power and independent organisations charged with scrutinising officeholders.

Professor Banjerd Singkaneti said at the panel discussion that the Constitution by itself could not actually suppress corruption, which would need the addition of relevant laws and regulations.

“What the Constitution can do about suppressing corruption is to prevent dishonest people from entering the Thai political system. Qualifications have been clearly set,” he said.

The academic said a weakness in the charter regarding the fight against graft was that it gave “too much power” to state agencies. He called azfor empowering the civil sector through anti-corruption measures in a new organic law. Banjerd is former dean of Nida’s law faculty and a member of the post-coup Constitution Drafting Committee headed by Professor Borwornsak Uwanno, whose charter draft was rejected by the National Reform Council.