WITH THE new constitution already in effect, digital journalist of Nation Multimedia Group Suthichai Yoon sat down with Meechai Ruchupan, chair of the Constitution Drafting Commission, for deeper insights.
INCLUDING THE LATEST CONSTITUTION, HOW MANY CHARTERS HAVE YOU BEEN INVOLVED IN THE WRITING?
There have been five charters that I have been involved directly as a charter writer. They are the 1978, the 1991, the 2017 Constitutions and two others that were interim. I also had parts in writing of the 1997 and 2007 charters. I did not help write them but I was in the Parliament and I helped checking and correcting. I also countersigned them after the royal endorsement.
WILL THIS BE THE LAST CONSTITUTION OF YOUR LIFE?
I think it should be. This is regardless of its life-span. I don’t think I will be able to do another one. It takes a lot of effort. Every day after work I always have to lay down very still. This is because it is not only the Constitution but also other legislation that is my job. This takes a lot of brainpower.
CAN THE NEW CONSTITUTION GUARANTEE IMPROVEMENT OF POLITICS AND POLITICIANS?
They have to be more careful. If they are not aware of the severe [penalties], it will be a wrong step and they will be barred from politics for life. If one or two people are punished, everyone will be more aware.
This is our intention. This is because some of the actions are inappropriate and truly dangerous for democracy. For instance, vote-buying will be punishable by a lifetime ban on election, instead of just five years. The door to politics would be shut tight and the person could be pronounced dead from politics.
DO YOU THINK THIS CONSTITUTION WILL BE THE LAST FOR THE COUNTRY?
Some said that when His Majesty the King presided over the ceremony to promulgate the Constitution it was the first time in 48 years. I thought to myself that this charter could be around for at least 48 years, too. I take it as a lucky number and think it is how long the charter will last.
HOW INFLUENTIAL WERE YOU IN THE MEETING DURING THE DRAFTING PROCESS? HOW MANY PER CENT CAME FROM YOU?
It would not have been this good if I had done it alone. But this we’ve got many experts from many fields to help contribute. There was only once or twice that I used my right as a senior to conclude something. But I never said that I had more experience and forced them to follow my lead. We never argued aggressively. We reasoned with one another. The only time we had to resort to voting was when we had to decide where we would take our retreat trip.
But I admit the wordings are mine because I was the one typing it for everyone to see in the screens. And we debated until we reached agreement. Also, we had to think about people outside the room, too. We tried to compromise.
In the future, if people will be stronger politically, they can change the systems. I won’t mind.
ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT CRITICISM THAT YOU ARE DOING THIS FOR THE NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR PEACE AND ORDER (NCPO)?
No. We have treated the NCPO as everyone else. We sent letters to gather opinions from them. The Constitu-tion Drafting Commission (CDC) members had never seen PM Prayut Chan-o-cha. And the PM also left us alone.
Also, there were no orders from the NCPO, I insist. Even if there were, they would not mean anything. However, in the meeting we have Maj Gen Veera Rojanavas who is close to the PM. He only took notes and reported to the PM. I also told him to report to the PM too, assuring that the charter would be done in time.
IS THE NCPO SATISFIED WITH THE NEW CHARTER?
I heard him say that [Prayut] was not fully satisfied. But I told him that neither was I. This is because we have to consider other people too. It is a charter for everyone. Some people |will lose, some will gain. But at the end, we have to make it possible to be together.
IS IT TRUE THAT THE INTENT OF THE CHARTER IS TO CREATE A MULTI-PARTY GOVERNMENT?
No, that was not our intention. But the number of seats seen now is calculated based on the data they have. But we don’t know [how many seats different parties will win]. We may know the statistics of the last election but the numbers may not apply to the new election method. We opted for this because it cannot be calculated beforehand. Everyone is equal.
Some people are afraid that the NCPO will have power to determine the next government. [But] there has been no sign that the NCPO will form a party. Last year when we were writing, there were absolutely no signs at all. I never thought about the NCPO or took them in the equation because they do not have a political base.
Some people think about having a minor party to be a nominee [for them] and form a government but it would be difficult. It is only possible when both big parties gain less than half of seats in the House. But that is very unlikely.
But if small parties really succeed in forming a government, they will have to take a sleeping pill every night.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO LEGALLY KEEP PUTTING OFF THE ELECTION … LIKE THE ELECTION WILL NEVER COME?
I don’t think so. I heard the PM was counting the day until the election just like me because this [work] is very exhausting. And because the PM is hot-tempered and he works unceasingly, it must be especially exhausting for him. But he is just doing his best. People may think he is working hard because he wants to stay on. But that is not the case.
WHEN CAN WE EXPECT THE ELECTION, LATEST?
Late 2018, if no world war breaks out. I cannot think of other political incidents [that would delay it]. A |delay because of organic laws won’t happen either. I will not ruin my own reputation.
Published : April 23, 2017
By : The Nation