Roundup: Junta plans for interim and permanent constitution

An Interim constitution is stipulated to be ready by August, according to the Thai junta. The highlights of the interim charter are as follows: 
 
The charter will consist of 3 bodies: National Legislative Assembly (NLA), National Reform Council (NRC) and the Charter Drafting Committee (CRC). The NLA will consist of 200 members to draft laws and select a Prime Minister; the NRC consists of 250 members (one from each province and the rest recruited from various sectors). Lastly, the CRC consists of 35 members, 20 from NRC, 5 from the cabinet, 5 from NLA and another 5 from NCPO. 
 
NCPO will also maintained special powers over the interim government, and it is indicative that the power of the NCPO is equivalent or above the government. Sources indicate that this is necessary because pressing security issues require the attention of the NCPO to maintain peace. This is interesting because a section conferring special powers onto the coup group was excluded in the 2006 Interim Constitution. 
 
 
According to sources, the NCPO maintained that it was “standard practice” for a section to confer special power onto the coup group and that section of the 2014 Interim Constitution was modeled after Section 27 of the 1991 Interim Constitution (National Peace Keeping Council was conferred power over the interim government at that time with regards to decision-making on security issues) 
 
On 4 July 2014, the junta gave “prescriptions” for the new permanent constitution to include measures preventing populist policies that could endanger the economy, an NCPO source says. The junta’s take on populist policies is debatable given their pursuance of multiple actions (Free movie screenings, Broadcast of world cup on Thai TV channels etc.) to “restore happiness to the people.” 
 
The interim charter provides members of the NCPO and those who acted on NCPO orders amnesty. The self-declared amnesty move is a predictable follow-up after a military coup. On 6 October 1976, a coup group known as the ‘National Adminstrative Reform Council’ seized state power and repealed the 1974 constitution. Thanin Kraivichien was appointed Prime Minister on 7 October 1976 and the government issued an amnesty bill to pardon coup makers who seized power the day before. 
 
The actions of the 1976 coup makers have set a precedent for future methods of power seizure. The predictable sequence of events include: an abolishment of Constitution, creating a vacuum between the previous and new constitution, during which the administration of country was under coup group authority.  During the vacuum, the coup group governed the country without any reference to any other power and this has been recognized by the courts. Previously, the vacuum period could last from a few months to a year, but now it has been shortened to a few weeks, possible due to international pressure and public dissent. 
 
Regarding amnesty, the method in which amnesty was administered to the coup group evolved through the decades. Amnesty was granted differently in 2006 as compared to the previous times. The amnesty law was passed as a provision of the 2006 Interim Constitution as compared to previous cases where it was passed in the form of an act. That was the first occasion of including amnesty into a constitution. From reports on the upcoming 2014 Interim Constitution, it is a positive that amnesty would be included in the constitution. 
 
Under the 2014 interim constitution, General Prayuth and his coup group would have to obtain amnesty to protect them from criminal liability. A coup is a crime that is subjected to capital punishment; however it is rare to obtain a conviction of coup makers in court. This reflects the institutionalization of coups in Thailand, given how they are accepted by parties and the court. The military cannot stage a coup on its own. It requires the help of different branches of power and legitimacy to legalize the new government. With the court’s recognition of the coup group as those wielding absolute power during the vacuum period and acceptance of amnesty status of the coup makers, military coups have become part of an unwritten constitution in Thailand. 
 

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