The recent appointment of a former protest leader, who is facing a sedition charge, as the prime minister’s deputy secretary-general has sparked criticism as people question whether it is appropriate and meets an ethical standard.
The Cabinet on Tuesday appointed former Democrat Party MP Buddhipong Punnakanta to the post with immediate effect.
Buddhipong was a key figure in the now-defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), which led a street rally against the previous government of Yingluck Shinawatra in 2013.
A statement issued by Srisuwan Junya, secretary-general of the Thai Constitution Protection Organisation Association on Wednesday, deemed that the Cabinet’s appointment severely violated the ethical code in Article 219 of the current constitution.
He said the appointee is being accused of sedition charges along with other PDRC members. The offence carries a severe penalty and was the cause of the military coup, he said.
“The appointment reminds society to look back to the root cause of the coup [and wonder] whether PDRC and coup makers had a close relationship before [the coup],” he said.
Pheu Thai Party deputy spokesperson Anusorn Iamsa-ard questioned how the appointment of a person who is facing severe criminal charges would enhance reconciliation.
Society cannot imagine how an appointment of a person who caused a riot, protested against and obstructed an election [in 2014], would be a support for the country [in the lead up]to an election, said Anusorn.
Meanwhile, Buddhipong on Wednesday reported to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and said he would report directly to the premier going forward but not work as his personal spokesperson.
The newly appointed deputy PM’s secretary-general said he was assigned to help with public-relations communications about the government’s performance and to be a go-between in handling public complaints about the government.
This was the second time he had been invited by government figures to join the government and he said it would not have been appropriate to refuse twice.
“When I received one more opportunity from PM Prayut, I do not have the right to reject [the invitation] from “phu yai’ [senior citizen],” he said.
His first invitation was to chair the board of Tourism Authority of Thailand, but it was not convenient for him to take the post at that time.
The former Democrat party MP said he won’t return to his former party to run for election, but declined to say whether or not he would join a party that backed General Prayut as the next prime minister.