A whole new charter is needed
Amending the constitution has become a political game. Those on one side argue that their party has been elected, and what benefits such an elected party benefits the people; therefore, amending the charter to avoid dissolution of political parties benefits the people. Those on the other side dismiss this as benefiting politicians only, especially bad politicians who committed offences as severe and repulsive as electoral fraud.
Using the discourse of Prawase Wasi, this is a crisis resulting from a deficient polity as designed in the constitution which is not based on academic principles, the rule of law or the people’s power.
How can we get out of this new round of confrontation between the same old political camps? I think we need to turn back to popular will once again.
Though the government has expressed its concern about the cost of another referendum, the estimated cost of two billion baht may not be too much if it yields a firmer democracy, and a solution to the conflict.
With this two billion baht, we could encourage the people to take part in the process of learning the pros and cons of the 2007 Constitution, including the entire process of its creation.
Economically speaking, this two billion baht should not be a worry as it would make its rounds among the people, in line with the government’s own policy.
The referendum process must be transparent, fair and inclusive of all sectors with equal participation, because Democracy does not belong exclusively to the coalition parties, neither does it belong to Prawase, Anand Panyarachun, Theerayuth Boonmee, the People’s Alliance for Democracy or certain groups of academics.
What should the people decide on the referendum?
The 2007 charter is unquestionably problematic, with the issues ranging from its origin and the composition of its drafters, to its objective in the first place which was to deal with one single person, Thaksin Shinawatra. The mentality behind it is much worse even than the Thai state’s old stance against the communist threat.
The charter was also written in an incoherent way, with its promises of people’s rights and freedoms lacking real, tangible guarantees, existing only on paper.
Government administration is deliberately weakened. This charter allows the government to follow only capitalism, the direction which is already taken and supported by the bureaucrats. Any alternatives are hardly likely to emerge. I believe the ‘universal health scheme’, for example, will never see the light of day during this administration, as the government would face too much friction from conservative and bureaucratic forces, as well as more difficulties and responsibilities than necessary.
The checks and balance system which formed the three pillars of the 1997 charter completely fails in the current charter, which is even more appalling with the attempt to politicize the judiciary, almost to the point of making Thailand a ‘judiciary state’. The 2007 charter presupposes judges are invariably upright, and can never be bought.
There have been many cases so far that prove the contrary such as the election nullification and Thai Rak Thai party dissolution, but these doubts have been suppressed. The Peoples Power Party’s overwhelming victory in the elections should be a clear sign, a slap in the face of the coup alliances as well as the judiciary.
The coalition’s move to change the charter, however, is pathetic, as it is driven by the fear of party dissolution.
To break the impasse requires each side to step back.
The Thaksin haters should rethink, ‘devaluing’ Thaksin and not letting fear dominate the whole issue of politics, no matter how much they hate politicians and believe in their own integrity.
Nonetheless, these politicians are somehow chosen by tens of thousands of people. Curse them too much and you may make headlines and become famous, but the people also become aware that you are also cursing them for casting their votes for these politicians.
The politicians in the coalition and the Thaksin admirers also have to understand how this hatred has come about, and have higher regard for the future of Thai politics than for yourselves or your party.
Only writing a whole new charter in the way the 1997 charter was written is acceptable. That means only one article of the 2007 constitution needs to be changed:
- drafters are to be elected to write or overhaul the entire charter, based on the 1997 charter, with experts on law, political science and history from all sides giving advices, within a timeframe of 180 days;
- the drafting process is to be inclusive, especially of the underprivileged;
- any political decisions such as parliament or party dissolutions that would affect the drafting process are prohibited, not including criminal cases;
- a referendum is to be held to accept or reject the draft charter.
The amendment of the article on constitutional amendments in the 2007 charter is the point of the aforementioned referendum.
Again, the referendum must be fair, not rigged, to be acceptable to all sides to remove the impasse.