Lesson Plans - Law

Making Good Laws

Is the Thai Constitution credible?
Looking at the last coup written constitution in 2007

Lesson Plan:

GRADE(S): 9 - 12


class involvement in evaluating rules and laws; three activities: working with the law; exceptions to the law; re-writing the law
At the end of this lesson, students should be able to...
• identify characteristics of good rules or laws
• draft a good law


small group discussion, followed by summation for class discussion

Thai coup (AFP) Thai coup consitution image credit Thai coup consitution

"Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made." John Godfrey Saxe, American poet and lawyer, 1869
The 18th Thai constitution

Background Update |

40 minutes (1 period) or could be spread over two periods

LANGUAGE: English (can easily be adapted to the language of the classroom)

AUTHOR: Keerock Rook, The Learning Foundation


The best foundation for the exploration of rules and laws is the examination of what makes a good rule or law. With that understanding in hand, other lessons in law may explore how and why rules are made, and who has the authority to make them.

Examining what brings "goodness" to laws allows students to identify characteristics of successful rules and laws.
In order to get into this subject, we begin with some "givens":

• that some people have the authority to make laws;
• and that laws are made to help keep order and protect people in society.
(These issues can be explored in more detail in other lessons, but for the purposes of this lesson, we begin with these two understandings.)

We assume, therefore, that parents, teachers, principals, and public officials have the right to make rules and laws.
Adults, however, are not the only people who make rules.
Many rules are made in schoolyards, especially when groups of children are playing games.

Good rules are not easy to make and this lesson explores the characteristics of good rules.

The following criteria are adapted from Lawmaking, by Linda Riekes and Sally Mahe Ackerly, 2nd edition. St. Paul: West Publishing, 1980.

• Good rules are fair.
• Good rules can be followed (that is, are within societal values).
• Good rules state the penalty for disobeying.
• Good rules can be enforced. It is possible to prevent anyone from breaking the law; and it is possible to witness anyone breaking the law and to make them pay the penalty.
• A good rule indicates who is expected to obey it, whether individuals or groups.
• A good rule is in keeping with other laws. Obeying one law should not put us in the position of disobeying another.
• Good rules have no vague or ambiguous words. The best rules are written in plain English.
• A good rule defines any word that might be misunderstood either because it could have more than one meaning, or because it is an uncommon word.

In order to appreciate these criteria, students are given a sample law(s) to discuss.

• First, they are asked to be judge of behaviours in light of a particular law(s).
In the discussion following their decision, they should explore the problems they encountered in enforcing the law.
• The students, through this discussion, create a list of criteria for good laws or rules (similar to those listed above).
• In a second activity, returning to the original law(s), students deal with exceptions to the law. Situations apparently in conflict with the law are discussed in small groups and once again the students are asked to judge each situation, examine the process of arriving at their decision, and determine how to enforce the law as it stands.
• In light of this discussion, in the third activity students are asked to rewrite the law and the public notices for this particular law.
• With a revised law in hand, students re-examine the list of criteria for a good rule or law and determine their success in re-writing the law.
Write on the board: Thailand has had 18 military coups and 7 constitutions since the country became a constitutional monarchy 75 years ago.


The 18th Thai constitution?
Over half of Thailand's provinces were under martial law, controlling freedom of speech, press and assembly, during the referendum to pass the 18th Thai Constitution. Martial law persisted up to and including the referendum, and stayed in force up to and during the parliamentary elections in December 2007.
Even the military appointed prime minster acknowledged that the constitution had many problems which he suggested could be corrected once an election was held and the military controlling the country was replaced.
The Democrat Party encouraged its members to vote "Yes" on the military created constitution suggesting if it was not passed the military would either keep it anyway, revise it as they wished, or simply keep the country under martial law.
Eligible Thai voters are expected to vote and a record that they voted is kept.
There were 45 million eligible voters at the time of the referendum, and 11 million of them voted "Yes" for the constitution, leaving 67% who did not vote for the constitution. 19 million "chose not to vote" and 11 million voted "No." (This data was reported by the Thai Election Commission on August 2007)
"Ultimately, the notion of a constitution being replaced by military force is - from the perspective of human rights, justice and the rule of law - an absurdity," said the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC). "While government propaganda in Thailand may persist in trying to give the appearance of a decent and harmless coup, the effect of removing the paramount law of a country by force is to make clear that the country is lawless.... Thus the country has devolved, in legal and institutional terms, to an extremely barbaric point that will have lasting bad effects for generations." The full article - By Daniel Ten Kate - The Asian Sentinel

Activity A  Students decide:

1. The students in pairs are asked to decide if the Thai Constitution is a reliable document given its history.
2. Have the class as a group discuss their decisions, the reasoning behind their decisions, and the problems they encountered in making their decisions.
3. Have the class develop a list of criteria for good rules or laws.
Activity B:  Discussion:

1. Have the students in pairs, or groups of three, discuss why Thailand has had so many military coups and so many constitutions.
2. Have the class as a group discuss their decisions, and the factors they considered before arriving at their decisions.
3. Have the class decide what specific steps could be done to add stability and reliability to the law, courts, and government of Thailand.

A) End class discussion with the question "What makes a good law and constitution?"

Student answers should include:
• can be enforced;
• can be followed (that is, is within societal values);
• is fair;
• indicates who is expected to obey it;
• states the penalty for disobeying;
• is in keeping with other laws (that is, doesn't contradict other laws);
• has no vague or ambiguous words;
• defines words that might be misunderstood.

B) Writing assigment based on this statement: Prinya Thaewanarumitkul, one of the country's leading constitutional lawyers, says the practice of coups in Thailand is a bad habit that needs to end. "If we didn't have this coup the Thai people could have learned more about democracy and politics and about how to develop," From: News Analysis: Democracy, Thai style - Ban the politicians - By Thomas Fuller International Herald Tribune Published: October 6, 2006

A written assignment could be given to have students read the opinion of Prinya Thaewanarumitkul, then complete the sentence, "If we didn't have this coup the Thai people could have learned more about democracy and politics and about how to develop, because..."

• Students can also do research on the legislative process at the Canadian Parliamentary Internet/parlementaire website. More lessons at: LFS Law and Society Lessons.

"The Thai Constitution(s)" - is based on "Working with Rules and Laws" from the Canada School Net simplified mock trial design.

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