Chaturon slams junta’s anti-reforms

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Chaturon Chaisang, former Education Minister and former Pua Thai MP, has criticised the junta’s anti-reform draft constitution. Speaking during a round table discussion at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand recently, Chaturon noted that many Western governments have asked the junta about when elections will be held. But the main issue is not “when” the elections will take place, but “what kind” of elections they will be.

Chaturon Chaisang was one of the very few Pua Thai politicians to refuse to knuckle under to Prayut’s junta. To his credit, he did not report to the military when instructed to do so and was subsequently arrested after giving a press conference to foreign journalists.

Chaturon noted that the new anti-reform draft constitution will allow for the possibility of un-elected Prime Minister who is not an MP and has not been elected by the people. The mere excuse of any political crisis in the future could trigger this. He quite rightly concluded that there would be a lack of popular power to choose a Prime Minister.

In addition to this, Chaturon explained that the role of political parties and their policies would be severely curtailed due to the so-called “reform policies”, stipulated by the junta, which will be enforced upon all future governments for years to come. The electorate would therefore have no say in the future of Thai society. Greater powers will be given to non-elected bodies which will control elected representatives.

Chaturon also explained that the anti-reformists are trying to design an anti-democratic equation for allocating the number of MPs in parliament. The number of Constituency and Party List MPs will be determined by a bizarre equation designed to stop a popular party from achieving a majority and giving more Party List MPs to parties which fail to gain many Constituency MPs. Although he did not spell this out, this formula would give added MPs to the pro-military “Democrat Party” at the expense of a party like Pua Thai, which won an overall majority when its policies won the hearts and minds of the people.

Chaturon noted that there are no proposed judicial reforms. Given the scandal of Thailand’s judicial double standards, this is a serious matter.

We can go further and note that the junta’s lackeys are busy trying to impeach many former Pua Thai MPs, including Yingluk, with the aim of banning them from politics. The impeachment of these MPs is being attempted under the outrageous argument that they tried to change the previous junta’s constitution to increase the democratic space.

Under the new proposed military constitution an approved vote of two-thirds of MPs and appointed senators, sitting together, is required in order to amend the constitution. The military appointed Constitutional Court will then consider if it is legal or not. It then has to be approved by referendum. Every 5 years an appointed committee of reactionary anti-democrats will meet to consider the constitution and whether any new amendments should be tabled.

Any attempts by political parties to propose policies will be vetted by unelected bodies which have the power of veto and the military appointed Senate can vet government ministers before they are allowed to take office.

It has also been suggested that the National Human Rights Commission be merged with office of the National Ombudsman and that the Electoral Commission be scrapped and be replaced by an “election organising committee”, hand-picked by military-appointed permanent secretaries of a number of ministries, including the Ministry of Defence, together with the National Police Chief.

None of this is particularly surprising. The draft charter is being designed to allow military and conservative control of a pseudo electoral system in the future. The iron grip over political policies is designed to freeze the status quo and remove any electoral choice; all in the interests of the conservative elites.

To achieve democracy, this rotten constitution and all those involved in past dictatorships, must be swept away.