Thai-US FTA talks ’’unconstitutional’’, senate panel says

Bangkok Post

Thai-US FTA talks ’’unconstitutional’’, senate panel says

By Penchan Charoensuthipan

7 January 2006

The Senate committee on foreign affairs will petition the Constitutional Court on Tuesday to seek a review of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) proceedings, claiming they have contravened the constitution.

Kraisak Choonhavan, chairman of the committee, said at a seminar on the Thai-US FTA that Thailand is not in a position to enter into an FTA with any country as it is not ready.

The FTA agreements, particularly that between Thailand and the US, will have far-reaching ramifications on the production sector, employment, sovereignty as well as the way of life.

``It is apparent that the government violates Section 224 of the constitution, which requires all key issues be passed for the Senate’s consideration,’’ he said.

``Previous rounds of FTA negotiations have neither been brought before the Senate nor opened to public input,’’ Mr Kraisak said, adding there was compelling reason for his committee to file the petition with the Constitutional Court.

Mr Bantoon Sretthasirote, director of the resources strategy project and a member of the National Human Rights Commission, said the issue to be submitted to the court for consideration concerned a possible constitutional violation by the Thai-Australian FTA arrangements.

The FTA could alter the scope of the country’s sovereignty and this would be too major an issue for the government to act alone in approving the bilateral agreement. The issue was also connected to His Majesty the King’s prerogative, since the agreement should have passed parliament approval and been royally endorsed in the end.

The Constitutional Court’s ruling will set a precedent for FTA negotiations with the US as well as other countries, said Mr Bantoon.

Article 224 of the constitution confirms that the King upholds the power to enter into peace agreements, armistices and other treaties.
Under the article, any agreement which alters Thailand’s territory or state jurisdiction must obtain approval from parliament.

Meanwhile, 10 civic groups filed a written request to Gothom Areeya, chairman of the National Economic and Social Advisory Council, urging him to relay the anti-FTA message to the government.

The message contained warnings about the consequences and possible repurcussions of the US demands on intellectual property and service and investment liberalisation.

The civic groups, including the Confederation of Consumer Organisations and FTA Watch, will rally in front of the US Embassy in Bangkok from Jan 9 to 13 in protest against the FTA. In Chiang Mai, thousands of people are expected to hold a demonstration next week in a bid to block the sixth round of talks between the US and Thailand on the establishment of a free trade area.

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