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New Charter

Push to have public role in new charter

Governance expert says there must be input from people

THE NEW constitution should apply "deliberative democracy" - which requires public participation and discussion in the formation of the charter, said prominent peace and governance expert Dr Wanchai Wattanasub.

Wanchai, the ex-director of the Office for Peace and Governance at King Prajadhipok Institute (KPI), said yesterday he personally supported the junta reportedly being against a referendum on the new constitution for fear it would create more public conflict.

"However it [the junta] should have a mechanism or channels to connect the new charter to the public," he said.

Wanchai said there was much talk at the moment about deliberative democracy and how it could be used in the political reform process en route to democracy.

"The National Centre for Peace and Order (NCPO) has done well in having public participation by surveying information from people in all sectors," he said. "They've had many agencies including the KPI hold discussion forums on the constitution."

But he believed the problem in drafting the charter centred on who would be in charge of summarising it and the mechanism used to select the best opinions.

"I think if we use the old-style method in concluding, thinking and writing the new charter, the country might be faced with an old crisis, he said. He suggested that articles in the charter include the pros and cons of each one, and then open the process to random debate among eligible voters while non-eligible voters should also be allowed to air their views. The feedback should then be summarised and used to adjust the charter.

"I believe that this way will get us a constitution that satisfies the public. Otherwise, it would be criticised as the junta-endorsed charter," he said.

Wanchai said his proposal would not create public division like a referendum would because people could contribute more than just "yes" or "no" answers.

He said that when looking back to the 2007 Constitution, the referendum result was very close and thus |created division.

Moreover the proposal would not cost Bt2 billion or Bt3 billion like the 2006 referendum did.

Meanwhile, Pheu Thai Party former deputy secretary general Chavalit Vichayasut referenced the Election Commission's proposal to reform the election by reviewing organic laws on voting.

Chavalit said the EC should adopt a big-picture stance when looking at the election and emphasise ways to make it free and fair.

He said Thailand had reviewed election laws, its system and methods several times and voters could adjust to the changes. Therefore, the public would surely adjust to any new election system. The NCPO should take the opportunity to overhaul the whole election system, he said.


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