Thai military imposes interim constitution | Asia Pacific

Thai military imposes interim constitution

Thai military imposes interim constitution

Updated 28 July 2014, 12:22 AEST

The Thai military has released a draft constitution which entrenches its power and enshrines amnesty for all past and future military actions.

The coup of May 22nd overthrew the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra after months of political turmoil.

Coup leader and Army Chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha could be Thailand's new Prime Minister.

Correspondent: Karon Snowdon

Speakers: Pavin Chachawalpongpun, associate professor at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, Japan; Panitan Wattanayagorn, Associate Professor in international relations, Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok

SNOWDON:  Thailand's old constitution has been torn up and a draft charter signed by the King without public consultation.
It allows for a National Legislative Assembly,  and a committee to draw up a new constitution.
Pavin Chachawal-pongpun is a Thai academic at Japan's Kyoto University .
Having spoken out against the coup, an arrest warrant has been issued and his passport revoked by the Junta In Bangkok.  He 's seeking refugee status in Japan.
PAVIN:  This has nothing to do with promoting democracy. I think that the aim, the purpose of the coup this time is basically to entrench the political power of the traditional elite.
SNOWDON: That view is backed up by the provisions in the draft constitution, which ensures the military maintains its control of nearly all Thai political life.
The membership of all the major bodies to be formed will be hand picked by the military's ruling National Council for Peace and Order, headed by General Prayuth.
They include the National Assembly, the Cabinet or Council of Ministers, a National Reform Council to draft legislation, and a Committee to draft a new constitution.
The Prime Minister will be appointed by the Assembly and can be removed by the military.
The Council can also take any action it sees fit in the name of national order and security and is granted amnesty on any of its past or future actions.   
Panitan Wattanayagorn from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok was an adviser to former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
He thinks there is a safeguard against the military's power.
PANITAN: The drafters of the constitution insisted that Article 44 in particular will not be exercised or implemented except in emergency or in a crisis.
SNOWDON: And he sees hope in the new bodies to draft legislation and a new constitution.
There is to be some consultation with the provinces outside Bangkok.
PANITAN: Those are three new structures or bodies will in turn implement various political functions paving the way to the normalcy and the election.
SNOWDON: Pavin Chachawal-pongpun is not convinced.
PAVIN: At the end of the day, we are talking about a real dictatorship that we would be seeing in Thailand for quite some time.
SNOWDON: Well, some of the questions that arise, of course, are who will be appointed Prime Minister. Now, the General could either be appointed Prime Minister, he might become Defence Minister or he might stay on as Army Chief, although he's meant to retire in October. In any case, I guess it's expected he will remain the real power in Thailand, do you agree?
PAVIN: : Ah there is no denying that Prayuth Chan-ocha would be the man of the day and appoint himself to be the next Prime Minister.
SNOWDON: So you're sounding fairly pessimistic, you don't see any progress towards restoring democracy, even in small ways. What does this then say about the General's promise for elections next year?
PAVIN:  I'm sorry to sound really pessimistic, but Prayuth Chan-ocha already state that this interim Constitution will not go through a referendum, basically this is what you will get, this is something that we will give it to you and you have to accept. I think Thai people will have to live with it for now, for fear that they could be arrested, they could be put in jail.
SNOWDON: Once the committee is established it has a deadline of 10 months to draft a new constitution.

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