We assume that some members of the military junta must like the draft constitution Meechai Ruchupan had drawn up. We know that those involved in concocting it have been told not to criticize it. Yet it seems that, as people read it and consider its potential impacts, it has even less support than the previous junked version. A Bangkok Post editorial called it a “mess.”
One former MP reckons the whole thing is a plot, with the draft charter “written in such a way that it would be rejected in the referendum.” This would allow the junta to stay in place for even longer.
The Post editorial says:
No political party or politician has had a kind word for his work. Newspaper headlines run along the lines of “Thumbs down for charter”. The prime minister already believes voters may reject it at the planned referendum.
Despite all of the above, the governing National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) under Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha intends to push ahead with the draft. It is not clear why. The government and military spokesmen have told the country it is all about the political roadmap controlling the return to civilian government.
But it is all a shambles. Gen Prayut’s original roadmap has been torn up and continually rewritten. The roadmap produced shortly after the May 22, 2014, coup promised elections would be held in 2015. A subsequent roadmap promised elections in mid-2016. That then became 2017 — and last Friday when Mr Meechai presented his draft constitution, 2017 looks like becoming 2018.
The editorial laments the lack of participation: “The lack of participation by the real stakeholders means a draft charter without support.” Even if there were some participation, this wouldn’t have changed the draft. Why the junta wants such a mess is anyone’s guess, but it does point to an intense desire to hold onto power.
So intense has been the criticism that Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has already had to engage in constitutional calisthenics to defend its most controversial sections.
Don’t worry about the junta’s charter, he says, because “no constitutions anywhere were completely democratic.” Wissanu went on to defend some of the most undemocratic elements of this draft: further empowering and politicizing the courts and “independent” bodies and the continued use of Article 44, saying the Article “could help make an election more free and fair.” Naturally, he was unwilling or unable to explain how a despotic power could be used in such a manner.
Conservatives and anti-democrats seem unhappy. Well-known yellow shirt Rosana Tositakul seems disturbed by the whole thing now, even though she was imploring the military to intervene and throw out an elected government just a short time ago. She reckons that this is a charter for tycoons and nobles, potentially worse than the Thaksin regime. She seems unwilling to lie in the political bed with the monster she helped create.
Others who are regime supporters are tossing out lines that were also used in 2007: Kamnoon Sidhisamarn “said people appear to be left with few choices. If they want ‘certainty’, they will be compelled to vote for the draft charter as a way to ensure a general election is held in the latter half of next year under the NCPO’s roadmap.” However, it is clear that “certainty” is just being sure that the elections will mean nothing much at all, with political power in the hands of unelected elites and the military brass.