FTA Watch wants charter to curb govt

Bangkok Post

FTA Watch wants charter to curb govt

By Achara Ashayagachat

12 May 2007

Activist group FTA Watch has called on the Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) to include clauses that oblige the government to seek public and parliamentary endorsement before signing international agreements. The group yesterday handed its petition to CDA chairman Noranit Setabutr and Chuchai Supawong, chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee’s sub-panel on people’s participation and civil rights.

FTA Watch member Jacque-chai Chomthongdi said the new constitution, as it stands, would not help solve problems resulting from the signing of free-trade agreements.

Such problems have already emerged as a result of the FTAs signed with China, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, said the activist.

The group urged the CDA to amend Articles 186 and 295 (4) concerning the signing of international agreements to clearly stipulate that the government must seek parliamentary support before signing such pacts.

The new charter should also guarantee the public’s right of access to the substance of such pacts after the completion of negotiations, he said.

Mr Noranit was quoted by the group as saying that he personally agreed that international agreements should be open to public scrutiny and must receive parliamentary endorsement before they are signed by the government.

Dr Chuchai said his panel would take into consideration the proposed amendment to Article 295 (4), which states that international agreements that were signed or negotiated on before the new constitution comes into effect shall be exempted from any such public and parliamentary scrutiny.

FTA Watch member Saree Ong-somwang, from the Foundation for Consumers, said civic groups will launch a cycling campaign tomorrow to raise public awareness of the issue.

Prof Rapee Sakrik, a respected academic, will preside over the ceremony to launch a convoy of bicycles _ led by former senator Kraisak Choonhavan _ which will start from the State Railway of Thailand public park near Chatuchak Weekend Market before heading to Victory Monument and finishing at the Royal Plaza.

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