Draft charter only prolongs junta power: New Democracy Movement
The New Democracy Movement (NDM), a youth pro-democracy activist group, has faulted the junta-sponsored draft constitution, concluding that the draft prolongs Thai junta rule.
The NDM on Sunday, 15 May 2016, organised a public seminar on the junta-sponsored draft constitution at Thammasat University, Tha Prachan Campus, Bangkok, Lokwanee News reported.
At the event, key members of the NDM, Rangsiman Rome, Chanoknan Ruamsap, Rattapon Suphasopon and Worawut Buttramat took turns to criticise the draft constitution. The event was attended by many politically active people.
Worawut summarised at the forum that people will not be able to truly participate in the country’s political system because under the draft constitution during the so-called 5-year transition period, 250 senators will be selected by the junta-appointed senate selection committee. Therefore, future Members of Parliament (MPs) and the Prime Minister will have very limited power.
He added that as it is not written in the draft constitution that the future Prime Minister has to be an MP and as the referendum will also include a question whether the senate should also take part in voting for PM, there is no guarantee that the next PM will be elected by the people.
“In the future, if we accept the draft, we might get Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha [the junta leader] as a Prime Minister again without an election,” said Worawut.
Also, under the new voting method, a vote for an MP will automatically be a vote for his or her party, unlike the previous method of voting, which allowed separate votes for candidates and parties. Moreover, people will not be able to vote for a political party which has no candidate in their constituency.
The draft constitution will give a lot of power to independent agencies, such as the Constitution Court, many of whose members are affiliated with the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), to restrain the future executive branch of governance, the NDM added.
The pro-democracy youth group pointed out that the draft constitution has amended the wordings on the importance of Tambon (Subdistrict) Administrative Organizations in local governance, halting the process of decentralisation of the country’s governing system.
On rights and liberties, the NDM said that although it might appear that the draft gives priority to certain rights, there is no guarantee that people’s rights will be protected under the draft as it provides authority and impunity for the NCPO to violate rights.
Furthermore, on public welfare policies, the draft constitution has removed wording that guarantees everyone equal medical treatment in public healthcare, allowing future governments to limit the allocation of health care budget to certain people only and has also reduced free compulsory schooling from 12 years to only nine years.
In addition to the content of the draft constitution, a key member of the NDM, Rangsiman, also criticised the Referendum Act, which regulates campaigns on the draft constitution, saying that the Act is unfair as it restrains people from criticizing the draft charter while allowing the authorities to promote it.
At the end of the forum, Chanoknan announced that the NDM recently opened a website, www.ndmth.org, to promote their activities and issue statements advocating human rights and democracy.
The group also distributed leaflets and posters about the draft constitution to forum participants.
NDM members criticising the draft constitution at Thammasat University on 15 May 2016