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Meechai skips meeting with Prayut over charter

Posted by pakin On March - 9 - 2016

CDC chairman worried about ‘binding obligation’ as draft revisions discussed proposal on appointed senators not on agenda at meeting of core state agencies.

AMID mounting pressure from opponents of the draft constitution, the chief drafter failed yesterday to attend a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, saying he was concerned he might be given a “binding obligation” in regard to the charter.

But Meechai Ruchupan, chairman of the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC), denied that he was afraid of being given “orders” from people in power in regard to revisions for the draft.

He said the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) could instruct the drafters but that the CDC would decide whether to follow orders. “We will carefully consider the reasons and details,” he said.

Meechai had been scheduled to meet senior representatives from the so-called “Five Rivers” core government bodies – the NCPO, the CDC, the Cabinet, the National Legislative Assembly and the National Reform Steering Assembly.

Other representatives from the CDC attended the meeting yesterday afternoon, which took place at Government House. Prayut, who also heads the NCPO, chaired the meeting

No media were allowed to attend.

Meechai said yesterday the drafters had not yet considered a proposal by the Cabinet that senators should be appointed instead of being indirectly elected by representatives of 20 occupations, as the initial charter draft had stipulated.

Some analysts have said an unelected but powerful Senate, if included in the charter as suggested by the government, would be a decisive factor in convincing people to reject the draft in the upcoming referendum.

Before yesterday’s meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said his suggestion for appointing senators during the transitional period was just a personal opinion, adding that it would depend on the CDC’s decision whether to include the provision in the new constitution.

The head drafter said yesterday that the issue would be clarified soon. He urged the media not to speculate on the matter to avoid confusion.

Drafters ‘still firm on senators’

“Don’t guess about this. Regarding senators, the CDC is still firm with what is written in the first draft,” Meechai said.

He added, however, that the drafters would be “pleased” to consider any resolutions that were raised in yesterday’s meeting. “If the proposal goes against the CDC’s original principle, we will have to consider the reasons,” he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, speaking after the meeting, said the participants had not discussed the proposal about appointed senators. He reiterated that Prawit had admitted the idea was his personal view.

Wissanu, who is in charge of the government’s legal affairs, said yesterday’s meeting discussed the national referendum on the draft constitution in detail.

Regarding Meechai’s absence from the meeting, Wissanu said the meeting was called on short notice and that no formal invitation had been issued. He said Meechai was busy attending a CDC meeting at Parliament and therefore could not attend the gathering at Government House.

The CDC has until March 23 to complete revisions of the charter draft. The final draft will be subject to a national referendum tentatively scheduled for the end of July.

Meanwhile, CDC member Atchaporn Jarujinda yesterday dismissed a press report saying that the drafters had revised their first draft to require that future prime ministers be affiliated with political parties. He said the drafters had discussed the possibility but that no such revision had been made.

Unlike previous constitutions, the initial draft of the new charter would not require that a prime minister be an elected member of Parliament.

At yesterday’s meeting, the prime minister insisted that a general election would definitely be held next year. He also maintained that the junta would not attempt to stay on in power, according to a source.

General Prayut said there should be assurance for the Thai people that the sort of problems that occurred prior to the coup won’t reoccur after the next election, according to the source.

The PM said that the government’s national strategies should not be a cause for concern for the next administration. He explained that they set concrete goals for the country in key areas, such as education.

He also urged the core agencies to expedite their work because their time in office was running out, the source said.

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