Thai Leader to Propose Constitution Overhaul
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s party will present a plan for overhauling a constitution written after a 2006 coup that ousted her brother, a move that threatens to reignite political discord.
Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party will present a proposal tomorrow to parliament to create a Constitution Drafting Assembly comprising 99 people that has 180 days to draw up a new constitution, spokesman Prompong Nopparit said by phone today. A nationwide referendum will be held after it’s completed, he said.
“The Pheu Thai party sees that the 2007 constitution is not democratic,” Prompong said by phone. “It weakens political parties, weakens politicians and limits the freedom of people. The constitution should be drafted by people for people.”
The rewrite represents the biggest challenge to a military establishment that overthrew former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra six years ago since his sister took power in August. Moves by Thaksin’s allies in 2008 to change the constitution sparked violent street protests by his yellow-shirted opponents that shut down parts of Bangkok and culminated in the seizure of the city’s airports.
“The government thinks it is confident enough to make a move that will certainly upset the military and anti-Thaksin forces,” said Michael Montesano, a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. “I’d be very surprised if the Yellow Shirts can bring out the numbers they were able to bring out several years ago.”
The proposal calls for the amendment of Article 291, which specifies how the constitution can be changed. Right now amendments require the approval of a joint sitting of the 480- member House of Representatives and 150-member Senate.
The assembly would comprise 99 people, including a representative elected from each of Thailand’s 77 provinces and 22 legal experts selected by the Parliament, Prompong said. Members of political parties would be barred from sitting on the assembly, he said.
Under a clause in the post-coup constitution, a party can be disbanded and its executive board banned from office for five years if one member is found guilty of a crime. Since the coup, courts have disbanded two parties composed of Thaksin’s allies that won elections in 2005 and 2007.
Thaksin has lived overseas since fleeing a two-year jail sentence in 2008 for abuse of power. After his allies won July elections, the fifth straight victory by a party linked to him, Thaksin said a new constitution was needed “to allow freedom and justice.”
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