The Japanese constitution was written under SCAP’s supervision (the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers). That’s the pipe-smoking general from Little Rock, Arkansas, Douglas MacArthur.
One may argue that a general supervised the Thai constitution as well. But the difference is in the purposes. The former was to create a democratic constitutional monarchy. The latter was to create a military-dominated government.
The new constitution, otherwise known as the Post-war Constitution or the Peace Constitution, resulted from Japan losing World World 2. It replaced the Meji Constitution on 3 May 1947.
The 1947 constitution transformed Japan from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy with the emperor as the head of state. Japan today is still under the same constitution.
Meanwhile, Thailand has gone through 17 constitutions in the same period. Twenty, if we count back to the 1932 Revolution.
The most important reform the 1947 constitution introduced to Japan was this:
It put the Emperor of Japan under the constitution.
That’s right, the reform of the monarchy institution.
Henceforth, the emperor became simply “the symbol of the state and the unity of the people.” The emperor only exercises ceremonial duties and acts under the sovereignty of the people.
Let’s repeat: under the sovereignty of the people.
What does that mean?
Firstly, generals could no longer make coups, seize power, wage war, or interfere in politics “in the name of the emperor.”
Secondly, royalist groups couldn’t put on yellow shirts and throw an amplifier at a girl scout or call for a military coup “in the name of the emperor.”
Thirdly, the emperor and the imperial institution is no longer exposed to the manipulation and intimidation of powerful generals and politicians who aim to exploit “in the name of the emperor” to their political gains.
Fourthly, there would never be a need to “overthrow” the institution, as there is no political gain in doing so.
Do you know how many words are in the Japanese constitution?
The Thai constitution?
42,000, according to Thammasat Academic Prinya Thaewanarumitkul in a BBC article by Jonathan Head.
But the difference is not only in word counts.
While the Japanese constitution guarantees that the military can no longer interfere in politics, the Thai constitution guarantees that the generals dominate Thai politics.
Just look at the cast and character of the 250 senators who have the power to elect the prime minister directly.
The “ancient” and “tradition” argument.
According to mythology, the Japanese imperial house dates back to 1 February 660BC. That’s 2,680 years ago. According to historical evidence, the imperial tradition is some 1,500 years old.
Meanwhile, the Thai royal tradition dates back to 1238, the founding of the Sukhothai Kingdom. The current royal house of the Chakri Dynasty was founded in 1782, that’s 238 years ago.
We Thais love to use the words “ancient” and “tradition” as arguments against reform. But the historical fact is, the Thai royal tradition is much younger than Japan’s, also much younger than European monarchies.
We are babies compared to them.
Yet, with monarchy reform, hellfire did not engulf Japan, as is another argument often made by Thai royalists, that hellfire would engulf Thailand if we even “touch” the monarchy institution.
Do you know when hellfire engulfed Japan?
When generals dominated politics “in the name of the emperor.” Google “fat man” and “little boy.”
This is not to say the Americans should invade Thailand and write our constitution.
This is simply to say: history lessons exist so we can learn from them, facts exist so we should embrace them, and evolution exists so we’d better climb the ladder.