Progressive law scholars denounce draft charter

A group of progressive law scholars has denounced the draft constitution, saying it will only prolong the junta’s rule.

The Nitirat group, an association of progressive law academics known for their advocacy against Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, on Thursday, 7 April 2016, issued a public statement against the complete draft constitution written by the junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC).

The fate of the draft constitution will be decided in a public referendum, which will be held throughout the country on 7 August 2016.

“Nitirat cannot accept the draft constitution as the supreme law of the country and would like to publicly state that we will not accept the draft,” reads part of the 13-page statement. “And if the draft constitution does not pass the public referendum, the authorities should stop drafting constitutions and return the authority for the drafting process to the people to decide.”

Slamming the provisional clauses of the draft constitution, Nitirat pointed out that regardless of the promise of an election next year, Article 265 of the draft still ensures that Section 44 of the Interim Charter, which gives absolute power to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), will remain in place until the new the cabinet formally comes into power.

“This means that the NCPO will continue to have absolute power. This stipulation renders useless some important principles of the draft, especially principles related to the protection of rights and liberties of individuals,” reads Nitirat’s statement.

Under the draft constitution, the general election could be postponed indefinitely because despite the fact that the draft states that the CDC shall draft the organic laws for elections within 240 days, it does not provide any solution if these organic laws are not completed within that timeframe, Nitirat added.

“In voting for the referendum on the draft, some people might understand that accepting the draft will bring about the election sooner, but after considering the draft constitution in detail, this is not the case,” reads part of the group statement.

Furthermore, the progressive law group stated that important content which should appear in the draft constitution is not written in the draft, but will be in the organic laws which the CDC has not yet drafted, such as the law on the method of selecting the unelected senate. Therefore, people are not informed about important details of the draft, which are crucial for them to make a final decision about it in the referendum.

“This condition is problematic because it is not just for the referendum voters and might affect the result of the referendum,” wrote the Nitirat group.

In addition, the draft constitution provides impunity for the junta and legitimises all orders and announcements of the NCPO despite the fact that certain actions of the regime might contravene the principles of the draft constitution itself.

Nitirat summarised “It could be said that if the draft constitution passes the public referendum, the absolute power of the NCPO’s leader under the Interim Charter will not end, but will become part of the power structure under the new constitution.”

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