Thai interim constitution gives absolute power to the junta
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Thai interim constitution gives absolute power to the junta

Last night, the 2014 interim constitution was gazetted (the original in Thai is available from here).* The interim constitution comprises 48 clauses that will be in use until the new constitution is drafted. See Saksith’s post here for his take on the interim constitution. If anyone spots any mistakes, please e-mail or point out on Twitter to @bangkokpundit. Will likely try to tidy up the translations later as too much to translate and so little time.

1. National Legislative Assembly

Section 6 provides that there should be a National Legislative Assembly consisting of no more than 220 members. They must be Thai by birth and at least 40 years of age. They are appointed by the King on the advice of the National Council for Peace and Order.

Section 7 provides that in the selection of persons to be members of the National Legislative Assembly that the diversity of persons needs to be considered. On diversity, the sectors to be considered are public sector, private sector, social sector, academic sector, professional sector and other sectors that will be beneficial to the activities of the National Legislative Assembly.

Section 8 sets out a number of qualifications on who cannot be a member of the National Legislative Assembly. This includes having held a political position in a political party prior in the 3 years prior to being appointed as a member of the National Legislative Assembly (Section 8(1)), having previously lost their political rights (Section 8(4)), being under the prohibition from holding a political position or having previously been removed from a political position Section 8(7)), or being a Minister or member of the National Reform Council at the same time.

BP: So the junta chooses the members of the NLA (the sole legislative body).

In the 2007 Constitution, there was a prohibition on MP candidates “being a government official holding a permanent position or receiving salary except a political official” (Section 102(8)), but BP can see no prohibition in this Constitution. There is no such prohibition in the 2014 interim constitution. This means there is no prohibition on current government officials including military officers to be appointed as members of the National Legislative Assembly.

2. Prime Minister and Cabinet

Section 19 specifies that that the King appoints the Prime Minister in accordance with the resolution of the National Legislative Assembly and Ministers consisting of no more than 35 persons based on the advice and recommendation of the PM and these persons shall constitute the Cabinet.

Section 20 sets out prohibitions on who cannot be a PM or Minister as per below:

  • the person must be Thai by birth (Section 20(1)),
  • not being less than 40 (Section 20(2)),
  • having graduated with not lower than a Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent (Section 20(3)),
  • not having been a member of a political party in the 3 years prior to being appointed and not having been disqualified under Section 8 (ไม่เป็นหรือเคยเป็นสมาชิกพรรคการเมืองภายในระยะเวลาสามปีก่อนวันที่ได้รับการแต่งตั้ง และไม่มีลักษณะต้องห้ามตามมาตรา ๘) (Section 20(4))
  • not being a member of either the National Legislative Assembly, National Reform Council, Constitutional Drafting Committee, or being a member of a local assembly or a local administrator (Section 20(5)), and
  • not being a judge of the Constitutional Court, a judge, Attorney-General, an Election Commissioner, Ombudsman, a member of the NACC, Auditor-General, a member of the State Audit Commission or a member of the National Human Right Commission (Section 20(5)).

BP: Section 20(3) is broader than Section 8(1) as Minister cannot have been a member of a political party in the three years prior to being appointed whereas a member of the NLA cannot have held a political position in a political party in the three years prior to being appointed.

As with members of the NLA, there is no prohibition on government officials including the military from being PM or Minister. So Prayuth can become PM and other members of the junta can also be Ministers. Perhaps, judges will be appointed as well??

3. The National Reform Council

Section 27: A National Reform Council should study and propose reforms on (1) politics, (2) public administration, (3) laws and justice system, (4) local government, (5) education, (6) economy, (7) energy, (8) public health and the environment, (9) mass media, (10) social, and (11) other areas.

Section 28: The National Reform Council should consist of no more than 250 members and are appointed by the National Council for Peace and Order.

Section 30: The National Council for Peace and Order will appoint members of the National Reform Council based on the following guidelines:

  1. Establish a selection committee which will appoint members for the committees of each area as stated in Section 27 and also a selection committee in every province (…)
  2. The NCPO will appoint the selection committees from a line of experts (…)
  3. The selection committee is tasked to find qualified persons based on Article 28 and Article 29 (…). A list with names will be submitted to the NCPO for approval. Members of the selection committee cannot put their own names on the list
  4. The selection as stated in (3) should consider a diverse range of candidates from various sectors such as from the state, private, social, academia, professional and other sectors that are beneficial to the work of the National Reform Council, including from all provinces (…) all genders and those less privileged.

BP: The above has been adapted from Saksith’s translation of Section 30. One of the most important tasks of the National Reform Council is that they consider and give approval to a draft of the constitution as drafted by Constitutional Drafting Committee (Section 31(3)). Their role is in lieu of some pesky thing like a referendum….

4. Constitutional Drafting Committee

Section 32: There shall be a Constitutional Drafting Committee who will draft a constitution and this Committee shall consist of 36 persons who will be appointed by the National Reform Council Chairman based on the follow persons:

  1. The chairman will be be proposed by the National Council for Peace and Order,
  2. The National Reform Council will propose 20 persons, and
  3. The National Legislative Assembly, the Cabinet and the National Council for Peace and Order will each propose 5 persons.

Section 33 sets out prohibitions on who cannot be on the Constitutional Drafting Committee and that is they must be Thai by birth, at least 40 years old and:

1. Not holding a political position except they hold a political position within the National Council for Peace and Order, member of the National Legislative Assembly, or member of National Reform Council

2. Not being a member or having held a position within a political party within the 3 years prior to being appointed.

3. Other prohibitions as set out in Section 29 [Section 29 includes Section 8]

4. Not being a judge or a member of an independent organization under the 2007 Constitution

BP: Ok this is on the membership of the Constitutional Drafting Committee. As it is a body not directly appointed by the National Council for Peace and Order in its entirety the Constitutional Drafting Committee have been given a set of principles on drafting a new Constitution which are set out in Section 35:

Section 35: Constitutional Drafting Committee shall draft a constitution which covers the following:

(1) Endorsing that the Kingdom is one and indivisible ( การรับรองความเป็นราชอาณาจักรอันหนึ่งอันเดียวจะแบ่งแยกมิได้ )

(2) That the form of administration is a democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State which is appropriate for Thai society(การให้มีการปกครองระบอบประชาธิปไตยอันมีพระมหากษัตริย์ทรงเป็นประมุขที่เหมาะสม กับสภาพสังคมของไทย)

(3) Effective mechanisms in preventing, investigating, and eliminating corruption and misbehaviour in the public and private sectors including mechanisms to regulate and control the use of state power so that it is of benefit to nation as a whole and to the people (กลไกที่มีประสิทธิภาพในการป้องกัน ตรวจสอบ และขจัดการทุจริตและประพฤติมิชอบ ทั้งในภาครัฐและภาคเอกชน รวมทั้งกลไกในการกํากับและควบคุมให้การใช้อํานาจรัฐเป็นไปเพื่อประโยชน์ ส่วนรวมของประเทศชาติและประชาชน)

(4) Effective mechanisms to prevent and to investigate so that those who are sentenced/convicted or were there has been a legal order regarding corrupt actions or misbehaviour or actions to make an election so that it is not honest or fair are not able to take up political positions in any circumstances ((๔) กลไกที่มีประสิทธิภาพในการป้องกันและตรวจสอบมิให้ผู้เคยต้องคําพิพากษาหรือคําสั่ง ที่ชอบด้วยกฎหมายว่ากระทําการทุจริตหรือประพฤติมิชอบ หรือเคยกระทําการอันทําให้การเลือกตั้ง ไม่สุจริตหรือเที่ยงธรรม เข้าดํารงตําแหน่งทางการเมืองอย่างเด็ดขาด)

(5) Effective mechanisms so that government officials especially political office holders and political parties are able to undertake their actions or carry out their duties independently/freely without control or being led by persons contrary to the legal ((๕) กลไกที่มีประสิทธิภาพที่ทําให้เจ้าหน้าที่ของรัฐโดยเฉพาะผู้ดํารงตําแหน่งทางการเมืองและ พรรคการเมือง สามารถปฏิบัติหน้าที่หรือดําเนินกิจกรรมได้โดยอิสระ ปราศจากการครอบงําหรือชี้นํา
โดยบุคคลหรือคณะบุคคลใด ๆ โดยไม่ชอบด้วยกฎหมาย)

(6) Effective mechanisms to promote and strengthen the rule of law, and promote morality, ethics, good governance in all sectors and at all levels ((๖) กลไกที่มีประสิทธิภาพในการสร้างเสริมความเข้มแข็งของหลักนิติธรรม และการสร้างเสริม คุณธรรม จริยธรรม และธรรมาภิบาลในทุกภาคส่วนและทุกระดับ)

(7) Effective mechanisms to change the structure and to propel the economic and social system so that it is fair and lasting and prevents administering which aims to the politically popular that may cause losses to the economic system of the country and the people in the long-term (๗) กลไกที่มีประสิทธิภาพในการปรับโครงสร้างและขับเคลื่อนระบบเศรษฐกิจและสังคมเพื่อให้เกิดความเป็นธรรมอย่างยั่งยืน และป้องกันการบริหารราชการแผ่นดินที่มุ่งสร้างความนิยมทางการเมือง ที่อาจก่อให้เกิดความเสียหายต่อระบบเศรษฐกิจของประเทศและประชาชนในระยะยาว)

(8) Effective mechanisms in the use of state money so that it is worthwhile [kind of like ‘value for money’] and responds to the interests of the public of the people and consistent with the financial resources of the country and there are effective investigative mechanisms in place that are able to disclose the state spending (๘) กลไกที่มีประสิทธิภาพในการใช้จ่ายเงินของรัฐให้เป็นไปอย่างคุ้มค่าและตอบสนองต่อประโยชน์ส่วนรวมของประชาชนโดยสอดคล้องกับสถานะทางการเงินการคลังของประเทศ และกลไก การตรวจสอบและเปิดเผยการใช้จ่ายเงินของรัฐที่มีประสิทธิภาพ

(9) Effective mechanisms to prevent the destroying of importance principles that will be set out in the constitution ((๙) กลไกที่มีประสิทธิภาพในการป้องกันมิให้มีการทําลายหลักการสําคัญที่รัฐธรรมนูญจะได้วางไว้)

BP: Hmm…. Thai-style democracy here we come! Saksith adds a bit more on the time frame and what happens:

However, should the CDC fail to present a finished draft at the end of the 120 days, the committee will be sacked and a new one will be set up (Article 38). Even more severe, should the draft be rejected by the National Reform Council or should the consideration take longer than 15 days (as stated in Article 37), BOTH the Constitutional Drafting Committee and the National Reform Council will be dissolved and replaced by a new one, as the whole process starts anew (also Article 38)! All sacked members would be barred from joining the newly formed CDC and NRC. There could be a potentially interesting precedent!

BP: Also, no requirement for a referendum on the constitution…..

5. National Council for Peace and Order

Section 43 provides that until the National Legislative Assembly is in place and if a law requires that the House of Representatives, Senate or Parliament to give approval or to be informed then the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order shall give approval or to be informed instead of House of Representatives, Senate or Parliament. Before the Cabinet takes office, the powers will rest with the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order.

BP: In the interim, the junta has complete control…

Section 44 provides that in the instance where the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order views it is necessary for the interests of reform and to promote unity of the people and the nation and in order to prevent or protect from threats against public order, national security, the monarchy, national economy or sovereignty of the country (regardless of whether they occur in or outside the country) the head of the National Council for Peace and Order (through the approval of the National Council for Peace and Order) shall have the power to order, to suspend, or to take actions, regardless of its legislative, executive or judicial effect, and those orders or actions shall be regarded as lawful, constitutional and final. At the conclusion of that order or actions, the speaker of the National Legislative Assembly and the Prime Minister are to be notified as soon as possible (มาตรา ๔๔ ในกรณีที่หัวหน้าคณะรักษาความสงบแห่งชาติเห็นเป็นการจําเป็นเพื่อประโยชน์ ในการปฏิรูปในด้านต่าง ๆ การส่งเสริมความสามัคคีและความสมานฉันท์ของประชาชนในชาติ หรือเพื่อ ป้องกัน ระงับ หรือปราบปรามการกระทําอันเป็นการบ่อนทําลายความสงบเรียบร้อยหรือความมั่นคงของชาติ ราชบัลลังก์ เศรษฐกิจของประเทศ หรือราชการแผ่นดิน ไม่ว่าจะเกิดขึ้นภายในหรือภายนอกราชอาณาจักร ให้หัวหน้าคณะรักษาความสงบแห่งชาติโดยความเห็นชอบของคณะรักษาความสงบแห่งชาติมีอํานาจสั่งการระงับยับยั้ง หรือกระทําการใด ๆ ได้ ไม่ว่าการกระทํานั้นจะมีผลบังคับในทางนิติบัญญัติ ในทางบริหาร หรือในทางตุลาการ และให้ถือว่าคําสั่งหรือการกระทํา รวมทั้งการปฏิบัติตามคําสั่งดังกล่าว เป็นคําสั่งหรือการกระทํา หรือการปฏิบัติที่ชอบด้วยกฎหมายและรัฐธรรมนูญนี้และเป็นที่สุด ทั้งนี้ เมื่อได้ ดําเนินการดังกล่าวแล้ว ให้รายงานประธานสภานิติบัญญัติแห่งชาติและนายกรัฐมนตรีทราบโดยเร็ว)

Former senior Democrat Theptai and close ally of Suthep tweets:

BP: Translation: Section 44 means that sovereign power rests in the hands of the head of the National Council for Peace and Order as before.

BP: Translation: Section 44 gives power to the Head of the NCPO over that of the judiciary. How?!

BP: Translation: This has never have been an instance in [Thai] history before that [the junta has] power over the courts like with Section 44 of this Constitution

BP is unsure whether this is the first time in Thai history, but Section 44 gives the junta absolute power. No one can check this power. Everything done is deemed lawful.

It is somewhat ironic that in order to do everything efficiently and effectively, the junta must be given complete and absolute control with no check on their power, but then the system to be designed is one where there is complete control over an elected government and they constrained in their actions.

6. Other provisions

Section 46 specifies that in instances where it is necessary and appropriate, the Cabinet and the National Council for Peace and Order can pass a joint resolution to amend the [interim] Constitution by preparing a draft for the approval of the National Legislative Assembly. The National Legislative Assembly is not allowed to amend this draft except when it is then approved by the National Council for Peace and Order and the Cabinet.

Section 47 provides that all announcements or orders of the National Council for Peace and Order or orders of the head of the National Council for Peace and Order which were announced or ordered between May 22, 2014 until the date that the Cabinet takes office under this Constitution shall remain in force until they are replaced, cancelled or amended.

Section 48 provides that all acts done related to the seizure and control of state administrative power on May 22, 2014 by the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order including actions done by related persons that were related or authorized by the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order that all those acts, whether done for the enforcement in legislative, executive or judicial force as well as the punishment and other acts on administration of the State affairs whether done as principals, supporters, instigators or persons being commanded to do so and whether done on such date or prior to such date or after such date which if such acts may be unlawful, those who committed those acts shall be absolutely exempted from any wrongdoing, responsibility, and liability.

BP: Amnesty for me, but not for thee…. Don’t expect much protest about this from those who protested against the Yingluck government’s amnesty bill last year as some regard an amnesty for the junta as being normal…