Drafters cut Article 7, give crisis powers to top court

national January 12, 2016 01:00

By KASAMAKORN CHANWANPEN
THE NAT

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Charter draft also includes strict new limitations on state media freedoms.



THE Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) removed the highly controversial Article 7 from the draft charter yesterday as the commission entered its final week of work.
Article 7 stated that tradition should prevail during times of constitutional deadlock. The drafters agreed that the relevant powers should instead be transferred to the charter’s chapter on courts.
A similar article has been used several times in the past to resolve political deadlock by allowing a royally appointed prime minister to end conflicts.
The CDC expressed the opinion that it was inappropriate that the revered Royal institution would make such a decision, so power was transferred to the Constitutional Court to make the final judgement in cases of deadlock.
The drafters finished at least 40 articles covering the first three chapters of the draft, and 50 additional articles were expected to be completed each day during the first part of the week. 
The last days would be saved for the most difficult issues, said spokesman Udom Rathamarit. 
The CDC is on retreat in Cha-am to put final touches on the draft charter, which was about 90 per cent complete at the beginning of the week.
The CDC is also working on provisions that could include a ban on political office holders from owning media businesses.
The provisions would also ban members of independent organisations from owning media businesses and stipulate that media owners must be Thai citizens.
The charter would require that state media outlets reveal their sources of contributions and financing to the Auditor-General’s Office.
The provision also stipulates that media working for government agencies must comply with state objectives.
That stipulation contradicts Article 46 of the constitution of 2007, which allowed media employees of state agencies the same editorial freedom as that enjoyed by media outlets in the private sector.
A CDC source said the move was aimed at preventing state media from using state funds against the government.
The CDC also removed provisions similar to those stipulated by Article 46, which banned political office holders, state officials and media owners from directly or indirectly blocking news coverage on public issues.
The CDC included further restrictions by stipulating that content would be subject to government review during states of emergency or martial law, and not just during times of war.
Nanthana Nanthawaropass, dean of political communications at Krirk University, opposed the move to restrict freedoms and liberty of media professionals working under state agencies. 
“If the media is not given freedom of expression, people in the country also enjoy no such freedom,’’ she said.
The media must serve the public as a watchdog and not serve the government, she said.

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