Thai academics call to reject draft Constitution 2007

Prachatai - 23 May 2007. Academics led by the Midnight University called on the people to reject the draft constitution they labeled as 'destructive to political reform.' They held simultaneous press conferences at three locations in the country: in Chiang Mai led by Nidhi Eawsriwong and members of the Midnight University, a group of progressive academics based in the city; in Mahasarakam by Thanya Sangkapantanon of Mahasarakam University; and at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, by Kasian Techapeera of Thammasat University and Narumon Tabjumpon of Chulalongkorn.

They issued their collective statement signed by dozens of other academics from several universities, calling for rejection of the Constitution drafted by the Constitution Drafting Committee, a 35-member panel set up by the junta after the September 19 coup last year. The draft is subject to a nationwide referendum to be held late this year.

The academics said the draft Constitution, formulated under the dictatorial rule, would bring the country back to the old politics which had proved to have weakened the Thai society, making it vulnerable to changes, and would completely stall the political reform, an ongoing effort started with the so-called People's Constitution of 1997. They also cited the flaws of the draft, as depriving people of their rights to elect the Senate, giving bureaucrats power to appoint independent constitutional bodies, intending to undermine political parties, and confusing judicial and executive powers. As a result, they said, the elected politicians would be weakened to the point that they could never come up with any initiatives without consent of the bureaucracy. This draft Constitution would only lead to restoring the bureaucratic regime as in the past.

Although this draft seems to vouch for more rights and freedom for the people such as rights to peaceful demonstrations, people's media, and rights to basic welfares, they claimed there was no guarantee that the principles would surely be implemented.

The academics called for the reinstatement of the 1997 Constitution with modification in two points: 1. a general election would be held in 60 days after the promulgation; and 2. the elected parliament would begin a process for constitutional amendments, with people's representatives elected for this specific purpose, and under no influence from politicians. They also proposed the people use light green color as symbolic to this campaign; be it ribbons on vehicles, strips of cloth, wristbands, flags, etc.