July 08, 2014 00:00 By Khanittha Thepphajorn
Group discusses public input and setting up council
Participants at the Reform Now Network (RNN) forum said they wanted the reform council to be a long-term and inclusive body. However, many were divided yesterday over whether reforms proposed by the yet-to-be set up council should be put to a public referendum.
Those who push for a referendum said it would ensure public participation in the reform process. However to cut costs of holding a nationwide referendum, they said it could be held by unconventional methods, such as allowing people to give feedback at convenience stores.
Those who oppose holding a referendum on the grounds of cost have pushed for other alternatives such as public hearings to give people a say in the reform process.
No referendum for new charter
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) reportedly opposes a referendum on the new constitution because of fears it would create more public conflict.
Meanwhile, Gothom Arya, director of the Mahidol University Research Centre for Peace, has reservations over the NCPO proposal to select and appoint members of the Reform Council, saying the council should have people who are qualified, knowledgeable, mindful of the public and willing to work for the people.
He preferred the method of selecting a National Legislative Assembly in 1996, as it connected people. He suggested that the council allow people to apply to be assembly candidates at a provincial level and that 10 candidates be selected per province, who will then elect the final 77 candidates for the 77 provinces.
RNN member Buntoon Srethasirote presented five issues that most people believe need urgent reform. They are:
l Reforming politics in all areas, from political institutions, acquisition of power, checks and balances, the distribution of power to people’s ability to exercise direct sovereign power and reform for political stability;
l Reforming the bureaucracy to boost good governance, increase immunity against political interference and set up mechanisms to support reform;
l Reforming the justice system in related sectors from the police, public prosecutors and courts;
l Economic reforms aimed at bridging wealth disparity and boosting competitiveness and efficiency;
l Combating corruption.
Gothom also proposed that the Reform Council, which will try to lay the foundation for a more sustainable democracy, should aim to achieve long-term reform objectives within a year.
The council should provide education on reform proposals that have been prioritised, to prompt debate and integrate proposals.
It should also provide public stages for people to exchange opinions in a wide scope and get public consensus on proposals via the media.
The council and concerned agencies should draw up a roadmap to ensure reforms are successful. The council should also be given the legal authority to sponsor legislation and propose charter amendments.
It should be made up of the following departments: academic, debate and meeting arrangements, plus a faction to carry out reform tasks.