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Thai media has treated the charter amendment as a politicking game and has de facto reflected a new series of battling between the post-coup Thaksin and non-Thaksin forces, according to the four-member research team of the Media Inside Out.

Ubonrat Siriyuvasak, head of the research team, said of two of six print media that were surveyed--Thai Post and Manager ASTV-- have bluntly made clear against the charter amendment in its coverage and editorials, citing the move would only benefit the fugitive the Thaksin Shinawatra.

The research pointed out that the pro-amendment content use straight language and reasoning in their attempt to convince readers. Newspaper content that are opposed to the amendment are framed in dramatic narrative, openly attacking the government in the front page news headline, satirical language and labeling are used in the editorial and opinion column.

Thai Rath, Kom Chad Leuk (The Nation sister paper), Matichon and Bangkok Post editorial stance seemed to question the charter amendment move but showed fair coverage, said Ms Ubonrat.

But most op-ed articles from non-staff writers of most newspaper, except Matichon, have clearly shown they did not see the merits of the constitutional amendment, said Ms Ubonrat, adding that the space for content debates were hardly seen in the Thai media.

The study, which covered the period between April and July 2012, looked at straight news reporting, editorial writing and commentaries. It concluded that papers opposing the amendment plan cited allegations that amendment of the coup-government-sponsored constitution would lead to the abolition of the monarchy institution and was nothing but a tactics to whitewash Thaksin over his crimes.

In a related seminar on the issue, Worachet Pakeerut, Thammasat University's law associate professor, said the Parliament has lost its legislative power to the Constitutional Court already.

The Court has now set precedent and interpretation that anyone could file a complaint at anytime to the Court directly without having to go through the Office of the Attorney General, said Mr Worachet.

He said his blunt stance would be the same as Nidhi Eoseewong which encouraged the parliament to proceed with the pending third-reading voting and if the reading could not pass, the government should dissolve the parliament.

Let the people decide (with the election) whether the people needed the amendment or not, said Worachet.

Prinya Thaewanarumitkul, Thammasat University's vice rector, said the Constitutional Court ruling was clearly not legally binding but it was perceived as a political advice to all parties concerned.

Prinya, also law assistant professor, said the charter deadlock was unnecessarily prolonged, and it was time to kick the ball, perhaps through the referendum.

Wirat Kalayasiri, Democrat Party MP, said his party did not oppose amendment if the majority of the people agreed with the move-- by referendum.

Phiraphan Palusuk, Pheu Thai MP, said he also agreed with the referendum but how to count majority votes for the referendum and what type of questions would be prepared for the people remained the issue.

Mr Phiraphan, at one point, also conceded that the issue was a difficult and tricky one and at the end of the day there might not be any progress on the matter at all.


* Achara Ashayagachat is Senior News Reporter at Bangkok Post.


MIO: Charter amendment splits Thai media