After the 2007 Constitution was torn up two months ago, Thailand was presented with an Interim Charter with 48 articles on 22 July 2014. The significance of the charter is that it allows the establishment of three bodies: a National Legislative Assembly (NLA), taking the responsibilities of Parliament, a National Reform Committee (NRC), which will propose a “reform” plan aiming at re-engineering the Thai political landscape, and a Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC), which is responsible for drafting a permanent constitution. These bodies are selected and appointed by the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), surely without public participation.
As anticipated, the junta granted itself an amnesty for taking over power on 22 May 2014 and the NCPO has conferred on itself special powers over the interim government.
Panas Tassaneyanond, Thammasat University's retired Dean of Law and former Senator for Tak Province, said the interim charter did not specify when the reform council, the legislative council and the constitutional charter drafting council would complete their work.
The explanation provided by the interim charter drafters also did not include a time frame, so the only thing democracy lovers could hold on to was the NCPO leader's pledge to return power to the people, said Panas.
"Right now, no one would like to, or could, comment much about the future--not even by the new government. Therefore we just have to rely on the social contract the junta leader has made to the people -- like the (junta) song that says that they ask for some time and they will later relinquish power," Panas said.
None of the members of the newly-created bodies except the NCPO (whose membership will soon be expanded), would have a final say on the future course, he concluded.
Ekachai Chainuvati, law lecturer at Siam University, optimistically saw a rough timeline and believed that the military leaders would be held accountable if they could not push forward implementation of the things they announced.
Ekachai also believed that social pressure and media monitoring of the NCPO would eventually change their mind into allowing a referendum on the new charter.
"They have backed off cancelling the 30-baht-universal health scheme and they lessened their grip on the media after mounting concerns were voiced. So in this sense, people should not lose hope and keep checking and monitoring the work of the junta. At the end of the day, the NCPO and the interim government will have to amend and delete the no-referendum clause," said Ekachai.
However, he cited the super power the NCPO has been wielding over all bodies. "Article 47 means that the hundred or more NCPO announcements remain effective despite having this provisional constitution," he said.