PDRC embraces draft charter while red shirts remain sceptical

The People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) anti-election group, has embraced the junta-sponsored draft charter, saying that it is a way out of the country’s political problems while the anti-establishment red shirts have urged the junta to lift the ban on debates over the draft.  

According to the Manager Online, Suthep Thaugsuban, former leader of the now-defunct PDRC and current leader of the People’s Foundation for Thailand’s Reform (PFTR), on Sunday, 24 April 2016, told the media that he approves of the draft constitution written by the junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC).

The ex-leader of the anti-election protests said that the draft constitution will provide a way out of the country’s political conundrum and steer the nation forwards to ‘true democracy under the monarch as the head of state’.

He added that the draft constitution truly expressed the views of the people.    

“For the country’s reform, [the draft constitution] states clearly the strategic directions with the participation of the people and stipulates different articles about who does what and when. One issue that people really look forwards to is the reform of the [Royal Thai] Police which, as explicitly stated in the draft constitution, will start within one year after the promulgation of the draft,” the Manager Online quoted Suthep as saying.

Suthep further stated that he also agrees with the controversial process to select the senate in which all 250 senators will be chosen by a selection committee appointed by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) in accordance with a provisional clause of the draft.       

On education reform and religion, Suthep said that the draft has been much criticised for the fact that it will reduce free compulsory schooling from 12 years to nine, but it will bring about much delayed education reform and he praised the draft for mandating the religious authorities in the country to come up with mechanisms to protect Buddhism.

He concluded that the draft constitution will get rid of corruption and complemented Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, for putting the country on the right track.

Suthep Thaugsuban, former leader of the now-defunct PDRC, on 24 April 2016 stating his stand on the junta-sponsored draft constitution 

On the same day, the Daily News reported that key leaders of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), the main faction of the anti-establishment red shirts, held a press briefing at the Imperial World Ladprao mall in Bangkok amid the presence of soldiers who were deployed to monitor the event.

At the briefing, Jatuporn Prompan, president of the UDD, said that the NCPO should allow people to criticise the draft constitution freely, saying that the public referendum on the draft, which will be held on 7 August, will be useless if it is held in an environment of fear.

The UDD president criticised the Draft Referendum Act, which sets 10 years imprisonment for people denouncing the referendum or publishing polls predicting the result too close to voting day on August 7.

He said that the act, which came into force last week, is written ambiguously, leaving people unsure whether they could publically criticise the draft constitution or not.  

Under Article 61 of the Draft Referendum Act, “anyone who publishes text, images or sound, through either newspaper, radio, television, electronic media or other channels, that is either untruthful, harsh, offensive, rude, inciting or threatening, with the intention that voters will either not exercise their right to vote, or vote in a certain way, or not vote, will be considered as a person creating confusion so that the vote will not proceed properly.” The penalty is a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine of up to 200,000 baht.

The bill also prohibits publication of any poll or survey relating on the result of the referendum close to voting day.

Jatuporn also urged that international organisations, such as the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU), should closely monitor the manner in which the public referendum on the draft is held.

  The key leaders of the UDD on 24 April 2016 announcing their stand on the coming public referendum on the draft constitution