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Sat, October 14, 2006 : Last updated 21:03 pm (Thai local time)

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Home > Headlines > Assembly will not play a major role

Assembly will not play a major role

Members of the National Legislative Assembly selected to form parliament yesterday have only one clear mandate: to become a rubber stamp for establishing legal instruments for the junta-installed government to run the kingdom for the next 12 months.

They will not play any big role in shaping the country as many people expected.

The new parliament looks like a parliament of bureaucrats as more than half of the 242 members are government officials from state enterprises - both serving and retired. The military alone sent 35 serving officers to sit in the marble-halled parliament plus 24 retired soldiers and one major general as a media representative to the legislature body.

Selecting the officials and ex-officials to be lawmakers was not beyond expectation as the coup leaders accused politicians of doing great harm to the nation and needed "good and honest" officials to fix it.

The military believes that the officials are only qualified to lay down the fundamentals of the country before allowing politicians to play with it after they have withdrawn from the scene in the next year or so.

The selection of soldiers and official colleagues, as well as anti-Thaksin Shinawatra associates in the media and social activists, is a reward for the winning club in the struggle against the elected government that was toppled by the military coup and street protests last month.

Three journalists from the Manager Media group and key leaders of the People's Alliance for Democracy, including Maj-General Chamlong Srimuang and Squadron Leader Prasong Soonsiri, who played crucial roles in helping oust Thaksin, were given seats in parliament as a reward.

Maj-General Prapas Sakoontanark, who read the coup's statements on television on the night the military seized power, was also named as a media representative in parliament.

In essence, the members of parliament will obtain legal immunity, an estimated salary of Bt100,000 plus perks such as free flights on the national carrier.

Many questionable figures have been chosen for parliament due to their divisive capacity in the struggle with Thaksin and conflicts of interest.

There is no clear answer why media representatives need the seats. How can they do their jobs honestly as journalists while siting in the same boat as the authorities?

Parliament is not a place of celebration. The interim constitution gives it no important role to play, but simply making laws for the government. The charter's sections 5-13 mention the nature and function of parliament. In reality, they have the duty to support the military-backed government but have no right to counter balance it.

They can submit motions for debate and make inquiries to the cabinet and ministers but cannot pass a vote of confidence - or no confidence.

The parliamentarians will not put their fingerprints on the new permanent constitution, which is to be drafted by the yet to be named 2,000 member-National People's Assembly and the 100 member Constitution Drafting Assembly.

The junta chief Sonthi Boonyaratglin was even confused about the function of the many assemblies he now commands when he told reporters yesterday that parliament will approve a new constitution.

Section 31 of the interim constitution says the constitution will be approved by referendum, not parliament. After the referendum, the President of the National Legislative Assembly will present it to His Majesty the King for endorsement before coming into force. Parliament will play a role, but only in making the constitution's organic laws needed for the general election.

It's limited role and over representation of some groups have disappointed many people. The new parliament has failed to represent the wide ranks of society in the country. The selection seems a bit far from the spirit of democracy and the people's participation as the coup leaders promised.

Supalak Ganjanakhundee

The Nation

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