11 July 2024

Parliament today voted in favour of two bills in their first reading that would pave the way for drafting of a new constitution but threw out the one proposed by iLaw as anti-government protesters resumed their demonstration in the heart of Bangkok.

The two bills, proposed separately by government and opposition parties, seek to establish a broad-based committee to be tasked with drafting a new constitution.  Their differences lie in their proposed composition of the committee.

Four other bills submitted independently by smaller opposition parties to amend specific chapters and articles of the current constitution did not survive the vote.

Members of the House and senators took more than five hours to cast the vote which — one day after police used water cannons and tear-gas against thousands of anti-government protesters rallying outside the parliament while debate on the bills was in progress. And as parliamentarians cast their votes, protesters again began gathering at the Ratchaprasong intersection for another rally to reiterate their demands for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign, a new constitution to be adopted and the monarchy to be reformed.

The bill sponsored by government parties proposes a constitution-drafting committee whose members will be a mix of elected and appointed drafters.  The one submitted by the opposition wants all drafters to come from direct election.

All eyes, however, were on the bill submitted by the Internet Dialogue on Law Reform, better known as iLaw, which seeks a more sweeping constitutional reform. The bill, dubbed “people’s constitution” has the backing of the anti-government protesters and with almost 100,000 people signing up in its support.

The rejection, however, did not come as a surprise to members of iLaw. Jon Ungphakorn, director of iLaw, said before the vote this morning that he did not expect the bill to be adopted by the parliamentarians.

He expressed disappointment that the parliamentarians did not pay attention to the contents of the bill but were instead bent on attacking iLaw for accepting financial contributions from foreign sources.

Critics of iLaw alleged without evidence that the non-governmental organization was doing the bidding of foreign governments in proposing the charter bill.  John and other executives of iLaw have vehemently denied the charges, insisting that their goal was to propose a charter model that is more democratic than the current one.

Jon was one of the iLaw’s executives who defended the bill during the parliamentary session yesterday.

iLaw describes itself as human rights NGO which engages with civil society groups and the general public to promote democracy, freedom of expression, civil and political rights, and a fairer and more accountable system of justice in Thailand.