Draft charter criticised
Social critics yesterday scrutinised the draft charter drawn up by the Council for Democratic Reform and judged it to be below the standard set by the 1997 Constitution in terms of public participation and checks-and-balances mechanisms.
Gothom Arya, a lecturer at Mahidol University, said the 1997 Constitution enshrined public participation in the checks-and-balances mechanisms. The interim charter also does not discuss the basic policies of the state, whereas the 1997 Constitution includes 19 articles on this subject, he added.
He said the interim charter did not go far enough in balancing powers, giving more power to the Cabinet and the Council of National Security.
He noted that the charter, which empowers the Council of National Security to take part in Cabinet meetings, should indicate that the meetings are only to ensure transparency and not to dominate or exert influence.
"Otherwise the public will be confused over who is more powerful, the chairman of the council or the PM,'' Gothom said.
Campaign for Popular Democracy secretary-general Suriyasai Katasila said he saw several key weaknesses and loopholes in the interim charter. He identified them as:
l Article 5, which discusses the composition of the 250-member National Legislative Assembly, is not good enough because it does not explicitly reach out to all sectors of the public. The CDR should have appointed a selection committee to choose the assembly's members instead of appointing 250 people by themselves, he said.
l Article 11, which sets the procedures for the Cabinet to file motions and launch censure debates without taking a vote, should allow the public to launch motions against the government, he said.
l Articles 19 and 21,which empower the 2000 members of the National Assembly to select 200 of its members to form a Constitution Drafting Assembly, should include measures to prevent vote-rigging by lobbying groups, he said.
l Article 25 should have required the interim charter drafting committee to use important and significant points in the 1997 Constitution as guidelines.
l Article 27, which touches on the scrutiny of bills, should allow the public to file written comments on the bills.
l Article 30, which bans members of the Council for National Security and National Legislative Assembly from taking part in general and senatorial elections two years after the charter goes into effect, should also ban members of the Constitution Drafting Assembly and all committees and panel members appointed by the CDR from running.
l Articles 31-32, which stipulate that if the interim charter does not pass a public referendum within the deadline the council should put into effect an old charter, should use the more advanced 1997 Constitution.