Thai legislators seek to amend army-backed constitution
BANGKOK THAI legislators on Thursday submitted a bill to pave the way for an overhaul of the constitution passed in 2007 when the country was still under a militaryappointed regime.
The Pheu Thai Party, which leads a coalition government after winning last year’s elections, is pushing to change part of the constitution to allow it to set up a drafting assembly to change it.
The 2007 constitution was approved under an interim government that was appointed by the military after a 2006 coup that toppled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Thaksin, who has been living abroad to avoid a jail term for abuse of power, is the effective leader of the Pheu Thai Party.
His sister Yingluck Shinawatra is the current prime minister.
The military-backed 2007 charter was written to address some of the problems posed by Thaksin’s twoterm premiership from 2001 to 2006 when his populist measures allowed him to dominate politics and, according to his critics, mould policy to benefit his family businesses and those of his cronies.
But the charter was seen as a step backwards for democracy because it allowed for a percentage of appointed senators, instead of a fully elected upper house, and strengthened the mandate of independent bodies, such as the Election Commission.
Under the current constitution, the Election Commission can dissolve a political party and ban its executives from politics if it is proven that party leaders committed election fraud.
“This constitution is not democratic because if there is an election, its outcome can be made meaningless by the Election Commission,” said Chaturon Chaisaeng, a Pheu Thai adviser.
“It has also allowed the judiciary too much of a role in Thai politics.” The Democrat opposition party has opposed Pheu Thai’s bid to amend the constitution, claiming it is aimed at undermining corruption rulings against Thaksin to pave the way for his return to Thailand.
Pheu Thai and its coalition partners hold 301 of 500 seats in the lower house, making its amendment likely to succeed. The amendment process was expected to take at least 10 to 12 months, Chaturon said.