PM Somchai to Consider Constitutional Change

PM Somchai Wongsawat is expected to announce government plans to begin reform of the constitution under the auspices of an independent panel – the Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA). This is of course going to be controversial – pretty much everything the government does these days is going to be considered controversial in the current circumstances.

The constitution was written during the military junta period from 2006-7 – the incoming junta abrogated the 1997 constitution at the moment of the coup because it contained clauses outlawing military intervention. It was also too liberal in some respects for the extreme right wing interests currently threatening the country.

The junta’s constitution was written by its cronies and others who were there to give it a figleaf of respectability. It contains a number of clauses which strengthen the position of the right wing elites: various courts were given more powers to prosecute politicians (as we have seen in porkleg-gate, the persecution of the leadership of the PPP and so forth) while protecting those committing military coups, who would be considered traitors in most countries. Other clauses call for the appointment of senators rather than their election – which is intended to prevent the lower house from passing legislation the right wing elites do not wish to accept (i.e. pro-poor re-distribution). The pretence is that this returns ‘checks and balances’ which are, it claimed, undermined during the Thai Rak Thai government.

PM Somchai may be expected to wish change in all of these areas – whatever opinion one might take of the current court activities, they are crippling the working of government during what is rapidly becoming the most dangerous economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The PAD mob will claim that the changes will be to protect ‘corrupt’ politicians from the rule of law (leaders of the mob are currently wanted by the police for treason and other serious crimes. If they genuinely wanted the rule of law they would surrender themselves to the police and give evidence against those PAD supporters who killed pro-democracy demonstrators a few weeks ago).

The right wing elements will also oppose any changes because they are fearful that coup-makers and junta cronies will be prosecuted for their past actions or prevented from wielding their power in the future.