Press release by FTA Watch

Press Release

FTA Watch

23 September 2007

The Thai government has decided to conduct an exchange of diplomatic notes with the Japanese government on 2 October 2007, which will put the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement (JTEPA) into effect within 30 days, by 1 November 2007, without bringing the matter under the scrutiny of the National Legislative Assembly. Prime Minister Surayut Chulanont defiantly announced that he would take the responsibility and would resign if ever a petition was made to the Constitutional Court and his decision proved to be in violation of the constitution.

With regard to this situation, FTA Watch offers the following opinions:

1. This government’s behaviour is no different from that of the previous government in interpreting the constitution as authorizing the executive to sign an international treaty without submitting it to the scrutiny of the parliament. Article 190 of the 2007 Constitution reads that a treaty that has extensive impact on the country’s economic and social stability, or has significant binding on trade, investment, or national budget, must be approved by the National Assembly. The article was formulated based on the recognition of the flaws in the Article 224 of the previous 1997 Constitution and the principle that bilateral agreements, such as the JTEPA, the Thailand-US Free Trade Agreement and other trade and environment agreements, should be scrutinised by the parliament. Therefore, the intention of the Article 190 is to redress the problem caused by the 1997 Constitution. The government’s bypassing the parliamentary process is equivalent to a violation of the regulation which the government itself has been supporting. In other words, it is abusing the new constitution with its own hand.

2. This lack of transparency has raised suspicions on the motives of the Prime Minister and his advisers and the possibility that they were under some kind of pressure or were conducting some kind of barter, considering the fact that JBIC has delayed the loan approval for the sky trains project and has requested amendments in the loan contract.

3. The announcement of the prime minister to stake his position on this decision, during the time of conflict and transition to the national electoral system, shows the irresponsibility of the leader. It is equivalent to holding the whole country hostage.

FTA Watch urges the prime minister to stop such non-transparent action. In times of crisis, what the prime minister should do to restore trust in the country’s democratic system is to abide by the constitution which he himself had been actively supporting. The prime Minister should set an example of the respect accorded to the constitution’s intention by employing the parliamentary procedures for solving differences. In this regard, a constitutional court case and further divisions in society as happened during the previous government will be avoided.