Democrats spell out reform agenda
The Democrat Party yesterday announced its policies for political and media reform.
Former Democrat Party leader Chuan Leekpai greets current leader Abhisit Vejjajiva during yesterday’s conference on political reform policies at party headquarters.
Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva proposed ways to solve the problem of politicians' conflicts of interest, an easier checks-and-balances system in the Parliament and people's participation in amending the Constitution.
He also proposed amendments to the Constitution and the laws related to the media to ensure the freedom of media professionals.
Abhisit proposed a constitutional amendment that would require the wives and immature children of Members of Parliament to disclose benefits they received from business connections, as well as MPs themselves making a similar disclosure.
Government ministers and their families would also be required to declare their business benefits and not simply their assets as now.
The Democrat leader proposed a limit of Bt10 million on the amount any donor could contribute to a political party in one year.
"Political parties should be institutions belonging to the people and not dominated by any particular person or group of people," he said.
He said Pojaman Shinawatra, wife of Thai Rak Thai Party leader Thaksin Shinawatra, had donated hundreds of millions of baht to Thai Rak Thai since it was founded eight years ago. In July, Bhanapot Damapong, Pojaman's brother, donated Bt50 million to the party in one lump sum.
Abhisit went on to propose easier conditions for forcing votes of no confidence against a prime minister and ministers, with one-tenth of House members needed to request such debates.
The Democrats propose constitutional amendments that will allow people to file criminal lawsuits against cheating politicians directly, rather than proceeding through police and state prosecutors. Moreover, criminal laws against cheating politicians should have no expiry, Abhisit said.
He said a certain number of
people should also be able to request a constitutional amendment, although the Democrats believed the early sections of the Constitution, concerning the Thai state and the monarchy, should not be subject to change.
Immediately following the next election, members of Parliament should sign up to request an amendment to Article 313, opening the way for amendment of other sections, Abhisit said. Article 313 spells out the process by which the Constitution is amended.
"After the election and the selection of a House Speaker, we should propose the amendment without waiting for a Cabinet to be set up. This is the duty of the legislative branch," he said.
If the Democrats fill at least one-tenth of the House seats, sufficient to propose the amendment, they will go ahead with it immediately, he said.
Abhisit said the Democrats would propose amendments to the law to protect media professionals from threats and interference.
The distribution of broadcasting frequencies should be fair, contributing to free and fair competition.
He said the media belonging to the Public Relations Department, including Channel 11, should be developed in the public interest, and iTV should be converted back to an independent medium, as it wished.
A media rating system should also be implemented according to Thai cultural standards, he said.