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Thu, March 15, 2007 : Last updated 16:23 pm (Thai local time)

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Home > Headlines > Eyebrows raised over CDA selections

Eyebrows raised over CDA selections

A monk appointed to the National People’s Assembly casts his vote for 200 nominees to the Constitution Drafting Assembly yesterday at the Royal Navy Conference Hall.
Well-known personalities such as former senators, activists and academics were elected to be part of the 200 nominees for the Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) yesterday, but some of the biggest winners were virtually unknown names that raised eyebrows in the National People's Assembly (NPA).

The highest vote of 55 went to Okas Tepalakul from Chachoengsao province.

Former senator Chirmsak Pinthong came in at number 10, with 32 votes cast for him while anti-corruption crusader Klanarong Chantik came in at number 19 with 26 votes. Other well-known names included former Thammasat University rector Noranit Setabutr who received 21 votes and is ranked at number 32.

Another former senator, Karun Sai-ngam, received 12 votes and ranked at number 85 - while NGO leaders such as veteran rural development activist Raevadee Prasertcharoensuk received nine votes, placing her at 149 out of the 200 who were controversially selected yesterday.

From the private sector, Singha Beer scion Chutinant Bhirombhakdi received eight votes, placing him at 166.

But if a beer tycoon and a veteran NGO leader could muster fewer than 10 votes, then who is Okas and why did he receive the highest vote of 55, which ranked him as number one?

No one seems to have a clue.

"How did he make it?" queried Maj Pol Gen Krerk Kalayanimitr, who received 13 votes and came in at number 69.

While The Nation couldn't reach the 59-year-old Okas as of press time, his brief bio-data compiled by the Parliament, which organised the election, listed him as a businessman and owner of a provincial Japanese car dealership with an engineering degree from the prestigious Waseda University in Tokyo.

Okas is currently a member of the National Economic and Social Advisory Council. He was also in Class 12 of the National Defence College's Joint State-Private Course, and a classmate of the Council for National Security (CNS) chairman General Sonthi Boonyaratglin. Winner number three is equally intriguing and mysterious. Suwit Pipatwilaikul, outscored the famous ex-senator Chirmsak by 18 votes with 50.

Again, nobody seems to know him and his bio-data lists him as an owner of a local construction firm from the little-known province of Nong Bua Lamphu.

Suwit, also 59, holds a high school certificate.

Krerk said some people may have bought votes so they can have their name included in the list of 200, and perhaps increase their chance of a royal decoration.

"It's also an honour for the family," he said, as he busily telephoned many of the 50 NPA members who promised they would vote for him.

He was happy enough to receive 13 votes out of 50 promises, but said: "Many people deceived me [by making false promises]."

Among the 200 elected members, 74 were from the public sector, which has 574 members in the NPA - and 34 from academia, which has 325 members.

Meanwhile, 38 were from the social sector which has 538 members and 54 were from private sector which has 545.

An equal seven votes were received for people ranked from 185 to 221. To get the exact 200, their names were drawn randomly.

There were seven invalid ballot cards.

Suriyasai Katasila, secretary-general of the Popular Campaign for Democracy said 73 of the 200 nominees were officials, which might make the NPA the official assembly.

He said if the CNS, who will select 100 members of the Constitution Drafting Assembly from the 200 nominees did not consider the ratio of the nominees, the assembly might be overshadowed by the bureaucracy.

Academic Prayad Hongthongkham said the cluster of officials was not important because the CNS has a vital role as they have to pick 100 from 200 - so the CNS must pick carefully.

Prayad suggested the interim government should form a committee to investigate the 200 nominees' backgrounds, adding that if any of them were involved with politicians, it would be against the spirit of the constitution.

Somjai Phagaphasvivat, a lecturer from Chulalongkorn University said the CNS should subvert any problems by selecting the 100 from the several different groups. He said the previous constitution had been drafted by the same group. If the CNS did the same, the constitution would not progress as the public expected.

"The constitution must be varied. The CNS is a key player so they have to consider carefully when picking the draftees," he said.

Pravit Rojanaphruk

Sucheera Pinijparakarn

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