Thai PM seeks to revive ‘best’ of 1997 constitution

March 23rd, 2008 - 7:29 pm ICT by admin  

Bangkok, March 23 (DPA) Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said Sunday he wants to revive the best bits of the 1997 People’s Constitution which was abandoned and replaced in 2007 by a military junta. The old constitution was widely hailed as Thailand’s most democratic when it was instituted a decade ago. The junta that seized power in a bloodless September 19, 2006, military coup claimed it gave dictatorial power to the prime minister and rewrote it in 2007.

Samak argued in his weekly television programme the military’s constitution was created primarily to exclude a “single person” from politics - a thinly veiled reference to ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The current prime minister’s People Power Party is believed by most political analysts to be backed by Thaksin who returned from exile last month faces court charges of abusing his position as prime minister. He is banned from politics.

The PPP will this week discuss possible amendments to the constitution presumably to undo the various checks on ministerial power introduced by the military.

Samak said he would, if possible, amend the entire 2007 charter, except for the chapter governing the monarchy institution.

A billionaire telecommunications tycoon, Thaksin introduced populist policies to win votes rather than simply paying for them, and consequently won an unprecedented parliamentary majority that allowed him to monopolise Thai politics like no other premier before him.

Thaksin set up neutering the various anti-corruption agencies created to act as a check on powerful cabinets, infuriating many in the middle class who might otherwise have supported his populist economic policies.

Abuses of power eventually turned the Bangkok-based middle class and political elite against him, leading to his overthrow Sep 19.

The lackluster performance of the junta’s appointed cabinet enabled Thaksin’s proxy PPP to gain power in a Dec 23 election.

Cynical observers have predicted that once the PPP cabinet had cemented itself in power and readjusted the junta’s anti-Thaksin laws it would dissolve itself so that Thaksin could regain the premiership.

Pro-democracy activists and constitutional experts have already warned that moves to rewrite the constitution will cause a major row as it will be seen designed to merely consolidate the PPP’s hold on power.

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