Junta’s charter aims to weaken Thai democracy: academic

The draft charter is intended to bonsai Thailand’s democracy by weakening the majority voice in the House, academic said, adding that it is unlikely to pass in the referendum. 
 
Siripan Nogsuan Sawasdee, a political scientist from Chulalongkorn University, said the draft constitution intend to shut down democratic process in Thailand until there is a “political accident”.
 
“If the constitutional draft pass the referendum, whether the initial draft by CDC (Constitutional Draft Committee) or the draft with the recommendation from the NCPO (the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order), I think it is time to wake up ourselves to accept that Thailand’s democracy will be in the deep sleep for a long while and I tell myself like that every night.” The academic said.
 
Siripan spoke on Wednesday 16 March 2016 at the seminar “Thailand’s Draft Constitution and Referendum: Principles, Stakes, Directions”, held by the Institute of Security and International Studies (ISIS), Chulalongkorn University, along with other speakers including Ake Tangsupvattana and Norachit Sinhaseni.
 
Siripan predicted that the draft may not pass the referendum. Following a failed referendum, the junta might pick any previous constitution, revise and enact it immediately. The most predictable choice is that the junta might pick is the 2014 interim constitution, predicted the political scientist, because its Article 44 provides them an absolute power. 
 
The junta is obviously afraid of that scenario as can be seen from the suppression of debates and campaigns against the draft constitution.
 
“If the voters reject the draft, it might as well be interpreted as the rejection of NCPO,” Siripan added. 
 
 
Majority weakens 
 
The electoral system intends to limit power of the majority. The winning party cannot solely elect the prime minister.  
 
The new electoral system invented in the draft constitution is MMA (Mixed Member Apportionment) which aims at balancing the popular and the less popular parties in the lower house. In this system, people will cast only one ballot to vote their district representatives, on one man one vote basis. After the district election finalizes, the defeated party in the district election will get their representatives in the partylist system based on the proportion of the lost ballots from all over the country. 
 
The academic said this electoral system is very problematic because, firstly, the rights to choose PM will not be in the hand of the party that get the most voters. 
 
“Political parties will have less incentive to develop their policy to persuade voters and this might lead to the unstable political regime.” Siripan concluded.
 
Secondly, it favors a medium size party and discourages smaller one to get into politics because it is very difficult to win the district election and even more difficult the get a seat in the party list system. To win the district election, a party need to rely on local godfathers which will increase vote buying at the end, she added. 
 
 
Community rights is still not guaranteed in draft charter
 
Norachit Sinhaseni, the spokesmen of CDC, said the primary principle of the draft constitution is to eliminate corruption from Thai politics and to establish a stable political regime. 
 
He address the civil society’s concern on the absence of human dignity principle, environmental protection, community rights and related issues saying that the human dignity will return in the final draft before the referendum date.
 
Other specific issues, such as the environmental issue, community rights and criteria to allocate senators and committees of constitutional independent bodies, will be guaranteed in the future complementary laws. 
 
“If the referendum pass, CDC will continue writing complementary laws for another 8 months. But if it doesn’t pass I don’t know what’s gonna happen. All I can be sure is that I can go home” Norachit added.  
 
 
Speakers and audiences at Chumpot-Pantip conference room, Prajadhipok-Rambhaibarni Building
 

Advertisements

Since 2007, Prachatai English has been covering underreported issues in Thailand, especially about democratization and human rights, despite the risk and pressure from the law and the authorities. However, with only 2 full-time reporters and increasing annual operating costs, keeping our work going is a challenge. Your support will ensure we stay a professional media source and be able to expand our team to meet the challenges and deliver timely and in-depth reporting.

• Simple steps to support Prachatai English

1. Bank transfer to account “โครงการหนังสือพิมพ์อินเทอร์เน็ต ประชาไท” or “Prachatai Online Newspaper” 091-0-21689-4, Krungthai Bank

2. Or, Transfer money via Paypal, to e-mail address: service@prachatai.com, please leave a comment on the transaction as “For Prachatai English”