Thai Insider. Part 4.
Opposition to the 2006 coup was steeled by the suicide of taxi driver Nuamthong Praiwan who first drove his taxi into a tank to show his opposition. Not long after, he hanged himself from a pedestrian overpass.
Soon after the May 2014 coup, some students ignored a ban and demonstrated against the military and its coups. They used the bridge where Nuamthong took his own life to oppose the coup.
Today, on the 9th anniversary of Nuamthong’s passing, the Bangkok Post reports that a “group of pro-democracy activists paid their respects … amid tight security…”. Police posted notices proclaiming Article 44 prohibiting gatherings. Soldiers also observed.
They were joined by “some red-shirt members” and together “placed flowers at the spot where the taxi driver hanged himself from the pedestrian flyover in front of the Thai Rath newspaper office on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road in Bangkok.”
The Post also reports that former premier Yingluck Shinawatra posted Nuamthong’s last letter to Facebook and stated: “Nine years ago today he died. I respect the great mind of Uncle Nuamthong, who sacrificed his life in pursuit of democracy. I hope his spirit will see the return of democracy soon…”.
Remembering Meechai's Previous Work
Back on 15 May 1994, the Bangkok Post had a Sunday Perspective column regarding the constitutional developments during the time following the 1991 military coup that removed the elected government led by Chatichai Choonhavan.
Titled “A Fledgling Democratic Process at a Standstill,” (no hyperlinks available) it discusses the lack of progress on a new constitution following the May 1992 uprising against General Suchinda Kraprayoon and “other NPKC leaders, known collectively as Class 5 graduates of the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, who intended to dominate Thai politics indefinitely.” The column continues:
The junta leaders appointed a committee headed by Meechai Ruchupan and Osoth Kosin to draft two constitutions with provisions for them to perpetuate and share political power with their allies.
The 1991 constitutional draft was made the law of the land amid across-the-board protests….
“Should the Constitution be found imperfect or undesirable, it can be amended later, junta sources said. [as they said in 2007 as well]
The result of that constitutional process led by Mechai was the May 1992 uprising and massacre of civilians.
Following the May Uprising, there was more debate, and with Anand Punyarachun again an appointed premier, Meechai got into the act again, as a senator:
Senator Meechai Ruchupan, an expert in constitutional law, wasted no time proposing drafts he claimed to be democratic.
Although Meechai may be well-intentioned, the inquisitive media and the general public think otherwise.
The Meechai constitutional drafts were found to be the 1974 charter with some minor alterations. For example 1 Article 169 reads:
“0n administrative affairs, the Cabinet members are individually accountable to the House of Representatives in matters pertaining to ministerial performance; however, they are held collectively accountable in matters pertaining to Cabinet policy.”
Compared to Senator Meechai’s proposed amendment:
“In administrative affairs, Cabinet members are to abide by dictates of the Constitution. They are to follow the guidelines as stated in Article 108. They are individually accountable to the House of Representatives in ministerial matters and collectively accountable in matters pertaining to the general Cabinet policy.”
Naturally in a politics where royalists were seeking to dominate, Meechai’s regressive and anti-democratic proposals got support, in terms that seem very familiar today:
Senator Sompob [Hotrakit], lauding Sen Meechai’s initiative, said the proposed draft would prevent parliamentary dictatorship….
How was this to be engineered? Again, familiar territory. One proposal was for appointed senators:
… Proposals were made for senators to come from diversified professions with the Royal appointments countersigned by either the chairman of the Privy Councillors or the Prime Minister.
At the time, a Democrat Party MP Preecha Suwannathat, said to be “a legal expert who graduated from Thammasat University in the same class as Senator Meechai” stated that “Senator Meechai goes back in time, invoking the obsolete 1968 constitution which allowed permanent officials to become actively involved in politics…”. That charter was a military document drawn up by a regime that had, by that time, dictated fro a decade, and would stay until 1973.
And so it went on. Readers will get the picture. Essentially, the proposals being concocted by Meechai and his hand-picked Constitution Drafting Committee are but the most recent in a long line of proposals, several of them coming from Meechai himself, to embed a constitution for the ruling elite based in the military-monarchy alliance. The difference this time is that Thailand’s constitutional future is in the hands of a military junta that is more determined to get its way.