With the referendum scheduled for less than a month away, I thought it was probably a good time to post a link to the full text of the draft constitution. The official 112-page draft is available here. A translation of a previous version of the constitution (with 299 rather than 308 sections) has also been prepared. It is available from a Thai government website.

Regular readers of New Mandala will know that we maintain an interest in economic and social policies throughout mainland Southeast Asia. Since Thailand’s September 2006 coup it has been hard to ignore the discursive and practical effort devoted to the concept of “sufficiency economy“.

Sufficiency has, rather unsurprisingly, made it into the final draft of the constitution. For context, I have taken the liberty of reproducing Part 7 of the 2007 consitution – the Basic Economic Policy.

Part 7 Basic economic policy

Section 82. The State shall promote and encourage implementation of the philosophy of sufficiency economy.

Section 83. The State shall pursue the basic economic policy as follows:

(1) It shall promote and encourage a free economy, relying on market mechanism, and to encourage sustainable economic development by abolishing and refraining from unnecessary rules and regulations on businesses unless economic necessity dictates otherwise. It shall not engage in business activities in direct competition with the private sector unless it is necessary to do so, e.g., to maintain the security of the State, to protect public interests, or to provide public utilities.

(2) It shall promote practice of virtues, ethics, and good governance in business affairs.

(3) It shall improve the tax systems to ensure fairness consistent with the changing social and economic environment.

(4) It shall observe monetary and fiscal discipline to maintain the country’s economic and social stability and security.

(5) It shall encourage savings for old age.

(6) It shall direct business activities to ensure free and fair competition, to prevent direct or indirect monopoly, and to protect consumers’ interests.

(7) It shall ensure an equitable distribution of income, expand business opportunities, and promote and encourage development of local and national knowledge to generate goods, services, and jobs.

(8) It shall promote employment among the working age group, protect child and women labour, organize labour relations in a tripartite system in which workers have the right to elect their own representatives, and provide social security, protect workers to ensure they get fair wages, equal treatment in terms of rights, benefits and welfare.

(9) It shall protect the interests of farmers in production and marketing so that they may receive the highest rewards possible for their labour, encouraging farmers to work together to plan and protect their common interests.

(10) It shall promote, encourage, and protect cooperatives or grouping of people to undertake economic activities.

(11) It shall provide basic public utilities necessary for livelihood in the interest of maintaining economic security of the State while exercising care to ensure that the basic public utilities will not become a private monopoly to the detriment of the State.

(12) It shall protect and promote pursuit of occupations for economic development and encourage occupational association.

Of course, the draft constitution contains prescriptions on all manner of other issues in Chapter 5 – “Directive Principles of Basic State Policies”. The Basic Economic Policy is only a small part of the wide policy scheme that would be constitutionally mandated under Thailand’s 18th charter. Chapter 5 makes the relationship between government and these policy directives quite explicit: “the Council of Ministers, which is to administer State affairs, shall clearly state what activities it is going to carry out and the associated timeframe in order to administering the State affairs in line with the basic State policies”.

So, under this constitution it looks like a future Thai government would (at least at some legal level) have difficulty promoting and encouraging the implementation of economic philosophies other than “sufficiency economy”. But what could happen if a political party, in fact, decided, some time in the future, to campaign for a different economic system? If they won an election, would they need to change the “basic State policies”? How would this work? On what basis can political parties campaign differentially if economic policy is layed out in the constitution? Could a political party agitate to change the constitution? Does this draft constitution implement a framework that will make other economic philosophies illegal – at least insofar as they are promoted and encouraged by the State? Under this constitution would Thailand always enjoy a “sufficiency economy”? Or, more realistically, will every economic policy implemented in Thailand – regardless of actual philosophical orientation – now be given the gloss of “sufficiency economy” so they conform with the constitution? There are so many questions; this is just a start.

As always, thoughts and ideas from New Mandala readers are very welcome.