Junta may 'pick previous charter if draft rejected'

BANGKOK • Thailand's junta could pick one from among 19 previous Constitutions if a July referendum rejects a draft charter unveiled last month, the spokesman for the constitutional panel has said.

There are no guidelines telling the junta what to do if the Constitution is rejected in July, said Mr Norachit Sinhaseni, the spokesman for the Constitution Drafting Committee, yesterday.

"If it does not pass, then it is no longer written anywhere what to do," he told reporters in Bangkok.

"One way that has been proposed is the NCPO comes up with a solution," he said, referring to the junta by the abbreviation of its official name, the National Council for Peace and Order.

"The Cabinet or NCPO may pick from one of Thailand's previous Constitutions."

He did not say how likely such a scenario might be, but added that some recent charters would not meet present needs.

Both the critics and the drafters of the Constitution agree that it will not resolve long-running troubles.

"Look, whatever we draft, it is not a cure-all," said Mr Norachit.

The January document was the junta's second attempt at a draft after the previous charter was torn up following a May 2014 coup by the military.

A military-appointed reform council rejected a first draft last September over worries it could enable a military-backed takeover of the government during a crisis and could erode the power of political parties in favour of the army.

Chief among the concerns raised by critics of the current draft Constitution is that it grants the military absolute power to do whatever it deems appropriate in the name of national security.

Critics say the draft Constitution is likely to be rejected in the nationwide referendum required to approve it, so delaying the timeframe for a general election.

Those fears have prompted Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to repeat over the past week that an election will take place next year.

A new Constitution would be Thailand's 20th in 84 years of often-turbulent democracy.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2016, with the headline 'Junta may 'pick previous charter if draft rejected''. Print Edition | Subscribe