Giles Ji Ungpakorn
Just in case anyone feels excited about the new Thai constitution, it is worth a little reminder.
The new military constitution was drawn up by gangsters and thugs in uniform, who murdered pro-democracy demonstrators and used violence to stage military coups and pervert the democratic process. It was “approved” in a referendum where people campaigning to oppose the constitution were arrested. This is not a democratic constitution which could open the door to democratic elections.
The general tone is patronising and banal, with constant references to the monarchy. It talks about the “duties of citizens to be loyal to King and Country and to maintain discipline”. Duty and discipline take priority over the rights of citizens. There are pages of rubbish about the qualities of “good” political leaders and naturally they must be loyal to “Nation, Religion and King”. It is also a neo-liberal constitution, like all the various constitutions since the 1996 economic crisis. So it talks of public health being organised according to a “fair” market economy, the need to maintain “fiscal discipline” and the importance of following the previous king’s reactionary “Sufficiency Economy” ideology. Free state education is not guaranteed up to the end of secondary school. As usual, this is all aimed against redistribution of wealth and state spending which benefits the poor. Naturally, military and Palace spending are not a threat to fiscal discipline.
The constitution outlaws what the reactionaries like to call “populist policies”. This is aimed directly at Taksin-style measures which were hugely popular among the electorate. Such policies need to be outlawed by wise men because the majority of the population are “too stupid” to know what is good for them.
People like Taksin and some other Pua Thai politicians will be barred from office for “legal” reasons, much like the gerrymandered electoral system in Singapore or Burma which bars opposition politicians for dubious legal reasons. However, state murderers like Abhisit and Sutep, will not be banned from office. The constitution white-washes all the crimes of the present junta and allows Generalissimo Prayut to carry on ruling by decree until so-called elections are held at some time in the future.
The Prime Minister need not be an elected MP, if supported by 2/3 of parliament. All ministers must have bachelor degrees, to weed out any ignorant poor people, and the Prime Minister cannot hold office for longer than 8 consecutive years.
The all-powerful senate will be made up of some elected senators but most will be appointed by the military and the elites. The senate will have extensive powers to appoint the Electoral Commission, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Constitutional Judges. In the past these bodies exercised power over the democratically elected Yingluk government and paved the way for a military coup. The senate will also appoint the useless Human Rights Commission, no doubt ensuring that there are plenty of military and police officers on board. However, parliament will have reduced powers. The senate can also veto government policy. The electoral commission can also censor the manifesto policies of political parties seeking election.
The establishment of a committee to determine the strategy for anti-reforms and so-called reconciliation is designed to engineer “Guided Democracy”. This committee will in effect be a “Super Junta”, with powers to veto any decisions made by an elected government and to take power at any time via a “legalised coup”, if and when it deems fit. Naturally the Super Junta will be dominated by the military top brass. This Super Junta will be enshrined in stone for 5 years, but its length of duty can be extended at will.
The constitution can never be amended to make Thailand into a republic or to allow self-determination in Patani. Any other amendments which have been sanctioned by a parliamentary vote, must be approved by the elite appointed Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court also has the power to sack an elected government.
In summary, in terms of freedom and democracy the constitution is worth less than a roll of toilet paper.