Thailand has to speed up preparations for the Asean Community in order to keep up with the other countries, as the May 22 military coup has pushed it back to square one vis-a-vis democracy with a lot to work pending in terms of law-making.
This is not an easy task. Although Asean countries understand one another’s contexts, Thailand is currently the only country that needs to draft a new constitution. Before signing any international agreement, it is important for legal experts to ensure it adheres to the provisions of the charter.
When the 2007 Constitution was in use, many international agreements had to be put on hold because the supreme law required much engagement of the government and Parliament, and even the Constitutional Court was involved.
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) should contemplate well how to set up rules so that they are accepted internationally. The global community is also watching.
Thailand used to be the leader in the region on issues of law. However, lagging behind now does not mean a totally lost chance. Though we may seem slow at the moment, it is important to ensure we make laws that can build confidence.
The legal experts who will be involved in drafting the 2014 constitution and the new laws for the country should understand all the contexts from the past until the present, to lay a firm base for Thailand in the future. The laws must not be drafted with bias for or against any particular group. Otherwise, problems will occur.
At the same time, the measures that have been used or prepared by the NCPO must not be too strict. Criticism and scrutiny could be turned into dissenting pressure when democracy is returned to the country.
Good intention at one point in time can become a poison at another.
Any announcements and orders made by the NCPO are now taken as laws, considering the NCPO is the holder of sovereign power. It should start thinking when and how to revoke them. For example, should it allow the National Legislative Assembly to do that in the future, or should it revoke the laws by itself?
NCPO chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha has emphasised many times the importance of Asean. He has also set up a committee specially tasked with preparing Thailand for joining the Asean Community. The subcommittees will focus on the three pillars of Asean: political, socio-cultural and economic aspects.
The permanent secretaries of the Defence and Foreign ministries met on Wednesday and discussed opportunities and problems involving cross-border issues. That might be a good start.
Laying the foundation bricks requires a lot of careful effort. Drafting the laws at this time requires even greater contemplation, as the laws will involve both Thai citizens and the Asean Community.