Slighted Sawat resigns from AEC
Slighted after his apparent demotion, Sawat Chotephanich has resigned from the Asset Examination Committee (AEC).
The committee was put through yet another shake-up this weekend after an awkward start and an obscure mandate to go after assets of politicians.
On Saturday, the Council for Democratic Reform (CDR) went into damage control mode and gave the committee extra teeth with which to probe and possibly freeze the assets of allegedly-corrupt politicians and their families.
The CDR removed six of eight AEC members, sparing only Sawat and Auditor-General Khunying Jaruvan Maintaka.
It added to those 10 more members with well-known names and reputations.
They included Kaewsan Ati-bhodi, Nam Yimyaem, Klana-rong Chantik, Udom Fuang-foong and Sak Korsaengreung.
But, the CDR move failed to rename Sawat - a former president of the Supreme Court - as chairman. It only stated members should pick their own chairman.
The signal from the CDR is clear. Sawat no longer has its confidence to chair the panel.
Since day one, Sawat has had a hard time working with Jaruvan. He and the auditor-general cannot agree on their separate duties.
Sawat insisted the committee would be able to investigate projects approved by the ousted Cabinet as authorised in the CDR's 23rd announcement. Jaruvan said the committee should be allowed to investigate the sale of Shin Corp shares as well as seize assets.
Sawat asked for information of all cases the Office of the Auditor-General had completed, to which Jaruvan refused.
She said it would take too much time to finish the cases.
The CDR did mess up in the beginning with its appointment of the National Counter Corruption Commission. Some members were seen as Thaksin cronies. After realising that agency might not work, it appointed the Sawat-led panel.
But, its mandate was not broad enough to take the assets of politicians found guilty of corruption - making it necessary to appoint the third panel within two weeks.
CDR leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin on Friday admitted CDR errors in selecting some with doubtful backgrounds.
The CDR on Saturday set up the new 12-member committee to replace the first AEC established on September 24. It gave it the power to freeze suspected assets.
AEC members - except Sawat and Udom - met Sonthi yesterday morning.
An informed source said Sawat submitted his resignation to Sonthi without giving a reason.
Former senator Sak said Sonthi told members Sawat had quit, but gave no reason.
He said Sawat's resignation would not affect AEC's work because the CDR announcement gave it a quorum of fewer than half and if that was not attained the Cabinet could appoint replacements.
The committee would investigate suspicious procurement contracts, Cabinet-approved concessions as well as tax evasion causing damage to the country.
The Nation was unable to contact Sawat yesterday.
Udom said Sawat was in Kanchanaburi.
He said CDR legal adviser Meechai Ruchuphan told him the committee could propose changes. Then, last Friday Jaruvan met with former senators in opposition to ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. They proposed amendments to the CDR and their requests were responded to favourably.