Thai media on charter change

The Thai media has treated constitutional amendments as a politicking game and has de facto reflected a new series of battles between the post-coup Thaksin and non-Thaksin forces, according to the four-member Media Inside Out research team.

Ubonrat Siriyuvasak, head of the research team, said of two of the six print media that were surveyed -- Thai Post and ASTV Manager -- have bluntly made clear their opposition to amending the charter in their coverage and editorials, citing the move would only benefit the fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra.
The editorial stance of Thai Rath, Kom Chad Leuk (sister paper to The Nation), Matichon and the Bangkok Post seemed to question the charter amendment move but showed fair coverage, said Ms Ubonrat.
But most op-ed articles from non-staff writers in most newspapers, except Matichon, have clearly shown that they did not see the merits of amending the constitution, said Ms Ubonrat, adding that space for substantial debates was hardly seen in the Thai media.
The study, which covered the period from April to July 2012, looked at straight news reporting, editorial writing and commentaries. It concluded that papers opposing the amendment plan cited allegations that amendments to the constitution that was sponsored by the coup government would lead to the abolition of the institution of the monarchy and was nothing but a tactic to whitewash Thaksin’s crimes.
In a related seminar on this issue, Worachet Pakeerut, associate law professor at Thammasat University, said that Parliament has already lost its legislative power to the Constitutional Court.
The Court has now set a precedent with the interpretation that anyone could file a complaint at any time to the Court directly without having to go through the Office of the Attorney General, said Mr Worachet.
He said his blunt stance would be the same as that of Nidhi Eoseewong, which encouraged parliament to proceed with the pending third reading voting and if the bill did not pass, the government should dissolve parliament.
Let the people decide (with the election) whether the people needed the amendment or not, said Worachet.
Prinya Tewanarumitkul, Deputy Rector of Thammasat University, said the Constitutional Court ruling was clearly not legally binding but was perceived as political advice to all parties concerned.
Prinya, also an assistant law professor, said the charter deadlock was unnecessarily prolonged, and it was time to kick the ball, perhaps through a referendum.
Wirat Kalayasiri, Democrat Party MP, said his party did not oppose amendment if the majority of the people agreed with the move-- by referendum.
Peeraphan Phalusuk, Pheu Thai MP, said he also agreed with the referendum but how to count a majority of votes for the referendum and what type of questions would be prepared for the people remained an issue.
Mr Peeraphan, at one point, also conceded that the issue was a difficult and tricky one and at the end of the day there might not be any progress on the matter at all.



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