The Draft of the junta’s constitution is due to be released in a couple of days.
Deputy prime minister Wissanu Krea-ngam recently said that “the new draft charter is likely to pass the referendum…”. He seems more “optimistic” than most.
Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) chairman Meechai Ruchupan is reported in The Nation declaring that “the current charter would stay in place if the new draft charter were rejected by the public.” He “explained”: “If the draft doesn’t pass the plebiscite, it means we do not have a constitution. What’s left is the present charter. It would still be in effect…”.
He means the interim charter imposed by the military following the 2014 military coup.
The Dictator, General Prayuth Cha-ocha, seems to think there may be a failed referendum. He could be accepting of the view from Meechai, which probably originates from the junta itself.
More interesting in Prayuth’s view is that a “general election will definitely be held in July next year even though the draft constitution is voted down in a referendum…”. In the tradition of paternalist authoritarians, The Dictator spoke on elections: “Don’t worry about it. I’ll make it happen no matter what.”
He also babbled a bit: “If the draft constitution is voted down and after the election, some groups won’t accept the results, you solve the problems yourselves. I definitely won’t shoot fellow Thais.”
He then got agitated when asked what will happen if the draft constitution is rejected: “That’s my business. I won’t say now. Why did you ask as if you don’t want it to pass? Don’t you know the country needs reform? Or do you want it to be the same as it was?… What’s so bad about it? Don’t you want it to pass? Are you reporters going to run the country?”
As the Bangkok Post observes, “with PM Prayut insisting on Tuesday that an election would be held next year regardless of the referendum outcome, confusion is growing.”
Legal eagles have been quick to point out that the military’s interim constitution is “impossible to use … in its current form … as it doesn’t contain provisions on several key elements such as elections.” Wissanu was a bit taken aback but said using the junta’s grubby bit of paper was an option: “it’s not impossible [to maintain it] if the interim charter is amended…”. He reckoned this might be a tough amendment, bleating, “But what’s the point if we have to change or add more than 120 sections? It’s tantamount to drafting a new one…”.
Our guess is that amendment in the junta’s parliament will be relatively quick and easy and it doesn’t need a referendum. The junta would get what it wants, and even make it similar to the current draft constitution. In addition, the junta could probably further delay an election to the end of 2017.