'New Constitution is only possible after next election'

national September 21, 2013 00:00

By Hataikarn Treesuwan
The Natio

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Kramol Tongthamachart, the former Constitutional Court president who agreed to join the government's political reform forum, said he hoped to see a new charter that is "fair to all parties".

He explained that he has agreed to join the forum because he wants to do what is best for the country, adding that his ultimate goal was to amend the Constitution.
Kramol went on to say that the best solution for ending political conflicts in the country was to have a charter that resets the balance of power between the judicial, the legislative and executive branches of the government. 
He said he believed the reform effort would succeed if widely accepted senior figures joined the constitutional drafting assembly (CDA), as they did in 1997. “Members of the reform committee cannot join the CDA because they are seen as siding with the government,” he said.
Kramol believes it will be a while before a new Constitution can be promulgated because the key opposition Democrat Party has been refusing to join the government’s reform forum. 
“The Democrats and the government are going in different directions. Though I believe they may have already had secret talks to discuss what it is they want,” he said.
“The current Constitution will most probably still be used in the next general election. We will probably still be using the current Constitution in the next general election. But, we might have a new charter when one of the parties loses the election,” he said. 
As for Thai politics, he put the problems down to political parties having different goals. For instance, he said, some parties spent far too much time trying to keep their rivals in check, like the Democrat MPs spent 12 days debating against the constitutional amendment in Parliament. 
“I don’t know what they want. I guess the opposition fears that the government will change the charter for [former prime minister] Thaksin Shinawatra’s benefit, so they used filibustering techniques to delay the amendment,” he said. 
Kramol was one of the key judges overseeing the 2001 Thaksin asset-concealment case shortly after he became premier, and the verdict in favour of Thaksin was met with widespread criticism.
The former judge also denied that Thaksin had asked him to join the reform process, initiated by his sister PM Yingluck Shinawatra, saying he had not been in touch with the former leader. 
As for criticism, he said: “Why do I need to listen to critics? I’m 78 years old and if I get angry it could kill me. I don’t care much about political colours as this might be my last job,” he said. 
Kramol added that though the current Constitutional Court was trying to extend its reach, people should not expect the court to start controlling the Parliament and government.
“Have you ever heard of tulakan phiwat [judicial activism]? It has enabled certain groups of judges to enter the Constitutional Court and independent agencies. It appears they have become the opposition’s tools to control the government. Tulakan phiwat still exists, but has less power due to public pressure,” he said.
Kramol also questioned former Constitutional Court president Wasan Soypisudh’s recent moves. Wasan, who recently resigned, warned the government that it could be in violation of the Constitution if it failed to declare its annual achievements to Parliament as required by the charter. 
Though he admitted that the government could be faulted for neglecting this requirement, Kramol said he did not understand why and for whom Wasan was issuing these warnings. 
He also said there will be more pressure on the Constitutional Court and advised it to be choosier about cases it heard. “The Constitutional Court’s duty is to hear cases that are only related to the Constitution, not political cases,” he said. 
He also slammed those who did not respect the court’s verdicts. “These days, people use strange methods. They prefer to take their cases to the streets,” he said.

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