Charter ‘threatens people’s rights’

EXPERTS see a grim future if the latest charter draft is accepted as they say it will entirely block legal options for people to protect the country's natural resources and communal rights.

The Thai Society of Environmental Journalists held a discussion on the issue, entitled "Who is the Person People can Count Upon, when Communal Rights in the Constitution are Gone?" One of the panellists said the people had to help each other because the charter draft does not have any legal instruments to help them.

Sor Rattanamanee Polkla, a lawyer who has been fighting many communal rights cases such as the ones concerning the Loei gold mine and Xayaburi Dam, pointed out that there were three key points in the draft charter that will leave citizens with no defence. "The first worrisome point in the draft is in Article 25, which states that people have rights and liberty under the constitution, provided these rights do not affect the stability of the state. So, what does national stability mean?" the lawyer asked.

"The government, nowadays, says everything such as building more coal-fired power plants is related to stability. So, if people use their legal rights to fight such projects, would they be violating the new charter because it affects the so-called state stability?"

She also cited Article 270, which allows all orders from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to be in effect and have an equal status as the Act. Hence, she said, controversial orders 3/2559 and 4/2559, which bypass the city planning law to allow the building of waste-management facilities and power plants, will end up being in effect even after this government steps down.

She added that the draft charter does not require the state to adhere to international laws that Thailand participates in, as stated in Article 82 of the 2007 Constitution, but instead it says that international organisations cannot interfere with the country's internal administration.

"This means we will not be able to seek help from international agencies such as the UN to protect people's rights," she said. EnLaw Foundation manager Supaporn Malailoi pointed out that the state has already taken most legal instruments that protect natural resources and livelihood away from the hands of the people.

"The NCPO's orders 3/2559 and 4/2559 have eliminated the city planning law, which was the first mechanism to ensure development that is fair. Then there was the exemption of environmental impact assessment for some industries such as waste-to-energy plants. So, the polluting waste-to-energy plants can literally be built anywhere with no legal restrictions," Supaporn said.

Sor Rattanamanee said she wants the new charter draft to assure people's rights at least at the same level as the 1997 and 2007 constitutions.

"I ask the people to object to this charter draft, because if it goes through, it will be very difficult to amend the law to secure people's rights and it will also cause greater conflicts between the people and the state."

Source URL: The Nation