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Charter change plan shows Thai govt's 'true intent'

Publication Date : 09-01-2013


Radical proposals by a House working committee - to dissolve top courts and key government agencies - showed the "true colours" of Thailand's ruling Pheu Thai Party and its push to write a new constitution, the opposition Democrat Party said yesterday.

Democrat politicians pointed to the proposals made by the panel studying constitutional changes that call for the dissolution of independent organisations, the demotion of the Constitution Court, and removal of a clause that supports acts made under the post-coup Interim Constitution.

Observers noted that the panel's proposals are consistent with earlier calls by Pheu Thai and former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who is believed to run the ruling party. These include dissolution of the Constitution Court, plus the Supreme Court's Division on Criminal Cases against Political Office Holders, plus the Auditor-General's Office, and reducing the power of the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

Similar proposals were voiced during Pheu Thai's election campaigns and political rallies of its red-shirt supporters.

The panel is chaired by non-MP Sophon Phetsawang, who has a connection with the ruling party. It was appointed by House Speaker Somsak Kiartsuranond, who is a Pheu Thai MP.

Opposition chief whip Jurin Laksanawisit said yesterday the proposals showed that ruling politicians wanted to turn the country into "totalitarian democracy dominated by evil capitalism".

"They seem to fear scrutiny," he said, adding that by weakening the check-and-balance system, the government would have limited freedom in running the country.

Jurin, the Democrat's deputy leader, said the proposal for Article 309 to be removed was the clearest proof the amendment move was aimed to benefit "someone special". This confirmed that public concern was warranted, he said.

Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut said most of the proposals would only benefit corrupt politicians and ordinary people would suffer more because of weakened scrutiny.

Constitution Court spokesman Pimol Thammapitakpong said yesterday that its judges were not worried and had not felt pressure from the proposal for the court to be demoted to the status of a tribunal. He said the court had sought to deal with all cases impartially, carefully, and in line with the laws and evidence.

"The court has strictly adhered to the national interest and the public benefit," he said.

Meanwhile, Pheu Thai figures sought to distance the party from Sophon's panel yesterday.

Wattana Sengpairoh, spokesman for the House Speaker, said it was improper for Sophon to make public the proposals before submitting them to the speaker. He denied Pheu Thai had influenced Sophon's panel.

The panel is part of the Committee for Law Improvement and Amendment. It consists mostly of Pheu Thai politicians and pro-government figures.

Sophon said yesterday that the proposals resulted from three months of studying all the country's past constitutions. He said his working group consisted of many academics and experts, adding that the goal was to "give full power to the people, who have the power of sovereignty".

Proposed changes

Charter amendments as proposed by a House working group led by Sophon Phetsawang: Leave provisions on the monarchy intact House and Senate compositions to emulate the 1997 charter House to comprise 500 seats - 400 from direct voting and 100 from proportional (party-list) voting Senate to comprise 200 seats from direct voting Disband Constitution Court and revert to Parliament-appointed constitutional judges tasked to rule on constitutionality cases without mandate to dissolve political parties Disband the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office Holders and subject all political cases to three-tier review by the Courts of Justice Disband the Ombudsman's Office and transfer its responsibilities to the Administrative Court Revoke the National Anti-Corruption Commission's mandate to prosecute without the endorsement of the Attorney-General's Office Revoke Article 309, which sanctions the 2006 coup, but uphold all judicial proceedings for graft cases, past and present, initiated under this provision


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