04/18/2015, 00.00
THAILAND
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Military junta drafts new Constitution slashing power of political parties and leaders

Committee drafting the Charter says it will end a decade of conflict and introduce a system of balanced powers. According to critics it weakens government action and seeks to exclude the Shinawatra family from political life of the country

Bangkok (AsiaNews / Agencies) – A year since the "white coup" that brought the Thai army to power, the junta led by former general and now Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (pictured) has developed the first draft of the new Constitution.

Analysts and local political experts point out that the "Charter" was written with the goal of reducing the power and stepping up control of the major parties and politicians; especially large families (in short the Shinawatra, both Thaksin and Yingluck) who have dominated the institutional life of the country and government for decades.

Yesterday the draft prepared by the National Reforms Council, a body composed of 250 members, was presented to the advisory body for final verification. By April 27, the auditors will have to defer the draft with appropriate assessments to the junta and Council.

In early April, the Thai military junta had announced the cancellation of martial law, in place for months, replaced, however,  by "new laws" to ensure that the military leadership a kind of "absolute power". The norms give power to the Prime Minister to issue decree-laws to "block or suppress" generic "threats to national security or to the monarchy”.  Moreover, soldiers can "in certain incidents, arrest people without the need for a warrant".

Gen. Lertrat Ratanavanich, spokesman for the committee responsible for drafting the new constitution, hopes that the Charter will help the country to end  a decade of political conflicts. However, for critics it seeks only to prevent a return to active political life of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and other members of his family, such as his sister Yingluck, Prime Minister at the time of the military coup and now on trial.

One of the objectives of the reformed Constitution, adds Gen. Lertrat, is to ensure politicians’ honesty and that they operate within a system of balanced power. It provides for a multi-party system of government and the executive will have to answer for their actions. However, doubts remain about the stability and effectiveness of government.

Thailand's crisis began in 2005, as major clashes broke out between "red shirted" pro-Shinawatra protesters, drawn especially from the countryside and among the poor, and the "yellow shirted" supporters of the Democrat Party, which represents Thailand's upper and middle classes, as well as the capital's elite, led in parliament by former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

In the spring of 2010, confrontations between protesters and police degenerated, leaving about a hundred people dead. This was followed by a political process and new elections that saw the temporary return to power of the Shinawatra family.

Still things remained deadlocked and last May, the military intervened to stop street protests that had left at least 27 dead, ousting Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin's sister, who had won the previous election by a wide margin.

Although nothing is known about the nature of future political reforms, the country remains in the hands of the military with, as prime minister, the head of the Armed Forces who is tasked with reforming the state, a situation that could easily move the country towards further authoritarian rule.

The current prime minister was in fact responsible for the bloody crackdown in 2010. Since then, and this despite the many dead, no member of the armed forces was ever held accountable for it.

In recent months there have been several incidents of censorship, violent repression of dissent, censorship of the media and convictions for treason.

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