THE JUNTA has decided to make crucial changes to the latest anti-corruption law after many members of state university councils and heath organisation boards decided to quit their posts en masse.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, in his capacity as junta chief, signed an order amending Article 4, so it is no longer mandatory for top executives or board members at some state organisations to declare their assets/liabilities to the anti-graft agency.
The order, published in the Royal Gazette yesterday, became effective immediately.
Under this order, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) will have the authority to decide exactly who should declare their assets.
Before this, the NACC refused to relax its asset-declaration requirements despite loud protests from state universities’ council members. The agency claimed the new anti-graft law required holders of important posts at all state organisations to declare their assets.
The NACC also insisted that the scope of persons required to declare their assets extended far beyond political office holders, such as Cabinet members, senators, MPs, local administrative bodies’ executives, Bangkok governor, the attorney-general and presidents of the Constitutional, Supreme and Supreme Administrative courts.
It also claimed that presidents of state universities, their council members, as well as top executives of public organisations and state funds, as well as chiefs of the Armed Forces, including the police, had to declare their assets.
At the height of the protests, Prayut assigned his deputy, Wissanu Krea-ngam, to unofficially look for solutions with the NACC.
Meechai Ruchuphan, former chair of the Constitution Drafting Committee, is one of the many high-profile figures who have signalled their intention to quit their post. Meechai is planning to leave the Rajabhat Rajanagarindra University’s Council.
Meanwhile, at least four members of National Health Security Office (NHSO) board have quit, while many members of the National Institute for Emergency Medicine, the Health Systems Research Institute and the Healthcare Accreditation Institute boards have said they will follow suit. Dr Jiruth Sriratanaban, a medical lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, said he has decided to quit the board of HAI because he does not want his finances to become public knowledge.
After listening to complaints and discussing the matter with Wissanu, NACC wrote to the government, saying that getting asset-declarations exactly in line with the new anti-graft law was causing problems. Hence, the NACC suggested that it be allowed to decide who should be required to declare their assets and liabilities.
It was in response to this letter that the junta chief decided to exercise his special powers to amend the law.
The amendment does not affect the requirement that the permanent secretary for Defence, the chief of the Armed Forces, chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as the head of the Royal Thai Police declare their assets to the NACC.