Thailand needs a permanent charter that is backed by all

national July 17, 2014 00:00


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THE PROMULGATION of an interim charter would mean that the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has entered the second phase of its mission as mentioned earlier by its leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Now the question is what comes next, or rather what will be included in the new Constitution, which many expect will become a permanent fixture. 
All eyes are on the drafting process – a job that will mainly be done by the charter drafting committee, which will mostly comprise members from the National Reform Council – and slowly it is becoming clear where the people in charge will come from. 
According to Prayuth, 626 candidates for the National Reform Council would come as representatives from different provinces and from civic groups. NCPO will then handpick the final 250 members of the council, 20 of whom will become part of the 35-member charter drafting committee, joining 15 members from the National Legislative Assembly, the Cabinet and the NCPO. 
Judging from the composition of the drafting committee, we can more or less see which direction the charter is going to go – after all, the drafters’ way of thinking is usually reflected in the laws proposed. 
The most important question now is whether the public will accept this Constitution. 
The NCPO may have good intentions, aiming to create an atmosphere of reconciliation, though expecting conflicting parties to come together to help draft the charter might just be a beautiful dream. The reality is very different. 
Also, the fact that we cannot hear many voices of dissent does not mean everybody agrees. Many might actually be choosing to ignore the process or prefer not to take part as they believe the process is created via a military coup and hence lacks legitimacy. Many academics have refused to join, despite always insisting on their non-partisan stance. 
Political parties may also refuse to join for fear that their participation in the creation of a coup-sponsored charter might affect their chance to win votes in the upcoming election. 
With all this, it is difficult to see this new charter being openly welcomed like the 1997 Constitution was. Instead, this version might find itself in the same position as the 2007 and 1991 Constitutions. 
Plus, there is the possibility that there may not be a national referendum on the new charter. It is true that a referendum is just part of the procedure and might be dismissed by some groups anyway, but at least it upholds the idea of legitimacy considering that people play some part by making their voices heard through the referendum. 
Hence, it is possible that the 2014 Constitution may not be a permanent fixture, and might instead become yet another event in Thai history that leads to yet another charter. 
Thailand needs a permanent Constitution with the consent of the people who have a say in the drafting process and the end result is acceptable to all citizens.
Of course, no charter is free from flaws or loopholes, but at least the majority should find it acceptable. Most importantly though, Thailand deserves a charter that does not get ripped up every time there’s a coup. 

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