10/13/2015, 00.00
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Thai military establish new body to draft constitution

by Weena Kowitwanij
Meechai Ruchuphan is set to chair a 20-member Constitution Drafting Committee, which has six months to write the new charter. The new body should uphold certain principles. Meanwhile, a survey for Bangkok University indicates what Thais expect from it.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Thailand’s Prime Minister, General Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who heads the governing National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), has announced that Meechai Ruchuphan would chair a 21-member Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC). The NCPO unanimously approved Ruchuphan’s appointment.

A prominent figure in Thai politics and an eminent jurist, the chairman of the new body and the other 20 members are tasked with writing the country’s new fundamental charter after a first draft was recently rejected by the military-appointed National Reform Council (NRC). The CDC has six months to draft the new constitution. After that, elections could be held as of 1 April 2016.

Born in 1938 in Ang Thong province, in central Thailand about 100 km from the capital, Ruchuphan is a veteran legal scholar and law graduate (1961) from Thammast University. Over the years, he has earned a number of honorary doctorates and degrees in both Thailand and the Philippines.

He was acting prime minister following a military takeover in February 1991. He was appointed by the king to replace the highly unpopular General Suchinda Kraprayoon resigned under public and state pressure. He served only seventeen days, from May 24, 1992 to June 10, 1992, and was succeeded by Anand Panyarachun.

For Ruchuphan, the drafting process should be concise, and lead to a newly elected government, which should proceed according to a main legal framework clearly set out in the constitution. Thus,

  • the new Constitution should  be internationally accepted;
  • it should have an efficient method to reform and build harmony among people;
  • it must prevent anyone from using political power to benefit himself, family or associates;
  • it should aim for the welfare of all people;
  • it must develop efficient ways of fighting corruption and immoral behaviour; and
  • finally, it should build an efficient form of participatory democracy for every citizen to benefit the nation.

Within such a framework, every Thai should become aware and be responsible towards the growth and development of the country and Thai society.

Following, Ruchuphan’s appointment, the Research Center of Bangkok University polled 1,004 Thais. Its report, titled ‘Expectation of Thai people towards the duty of CDC and the National Reform Steering Assembly’ (NRSA), found that majority is in favour of the new body and has high expectations vis-à-vis its work.

About 66.3 per cent of respondents believe that the CDC will settle the controversial points of the previous draft constitution; 64.8 per cent believe that it will consult major political forces.

Some 54.9 per cent expect the new Constitution to bring reform and reconciliation; 44.7 per cent trust the NRSA will do its work.

Finally, with Ruchuphan’s appointment, 49.9 per cent of respondents believe that the CDC will be able to complete its work by 1 April 2016, thus allowing Thais to go to the polls, the first since the bloodless coup of May 2014.

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