DPA International: “Thailand’s charter vote mostly about keeping army in power”

By Cod Satrusayang | September 2, 2015


“So this veneer of free choice is still a limited one.”

The military have so far refused to weigh in on the debate, saying that reform council members “were free to voice their opinion” with the added caveat that there be no public debates or campaigns over the constitution.

“The constitution-drafting process may be just a sideshow,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute for Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University.

“The main show is that the ruling generals are likely to remain in power indefinitely.”

Several members of the council have dropped the pretense of voting on the merits of the constitution completely, and are calling on their fellows to vote against it so the military can remain in power.

Wanchai Sonsiri, a council member and lawyer, has publicly said that he would vote nay because reforms were not yet complete, and that process must be carried out by the military.

Council member Paiboon Nititawan said he was “putting together a coalition” to vote against the draft charter.

Paiboon said the junta should in power for at least two more years to reform the political system and ease tensions among rival factions.

But even if the constitution is approved, it was written not to “promote popular representation and rule” but to “shift power and authority away from elected representation,” according to Thitinan.

That is because of the existence of a “crisis committee” clause, said Pavich Supapipat, an analyst at political advisory firm Vriens & Partners.

The draft constitution calls for the creation of such a committee – comprised of the commanders of the Army, Navy, Air Force and National Police and an appointed panel of “experts” – which “would be allowed to intervene in politics at any time.”


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