NOT even the much-anticipated national referendum can legitimise the junta-sponsored draft charter, though those opposing it are most likely to vote against it, Supanut Boonsod of the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) group said yesterday.
“Demands must be made of the next elected government to amend this new constitution [if it passes the referendum] and eventually draft a new charter,” he said.
Supanut said Thailand’s biggest problem was its many constitutions. This charter, if accepted in the referendum, will become the Kingdom’s 20th in 83 years, he said. This means that the average life span of each of these 20 constitutions has been just over four years and people have not felt a sense of ownership with any of them.
He said Thailand needed a genuine constitution that is written in a participatory manner from bottom up – a point that is the exact opposite of this draft charter. The entire process of drafting it was driven by the junta, also known as the National Council for Peace and Order, which appointed the drafters and set several conditions in the process, including having the junta-appointed National Reform Council decide on whether it can go through a national referendum.
“There’s no legitimacy in any of these steps. It [the draft charter] came about illegally,” Supanut argued, adding that some of his colleagues would not even participate in the referendum because they regard the entire process illegitimate.
Supanut said he would go to vote against the draft charter, because he wants his voice to be registered.
“I don’t accept this draft charter, but voting [against it] is a choice,” he said, adding that the TLHR is not likely to come up with a position on whether people should reject the draft charter by voting against it or by not participating in the process at all.
Supanut said he understood that millions would still endorse the draft charter, which curbs the authority of elected politicians, because they don’t trust politicians. However, he warned that these people would be harming themselves eventually.
“Democracy is a system in which the power rests with the people. Going against this system is like locking yourself in a cage, and becoming a pet that belongs to the rulers. It’s harmful,” he said, adding that he hopes people will understand this and allow the democratic system to work things out.