ASSEMBLY INAUGURATION

Crown Prince set to preside at ceremony


HRH will stand in for His Majesty, who has always before opened Parliament

His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will preside over the opening ceremony for the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) next Friday at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, the Senate Secretariat said yesterday.

In the past, only His Majesty the King would perform such significant duties involving Parliament.

The Office of His Majesty's Principal Private Secretary was reported to have asked the Senate Secretariat to organise the event at 5pm on October 20, to be led by the Crown Prince for the first time as the representative of the King.

Suvimol Phumisingharaj, secretary-general of the Senate, said yesterday that her office, the acting secretariat of the NLA, will call the 242 assembly members to attend the NLA's inaugural session on October 24.

The meeting will be chaired and conducted by Khunying Nantaka Supraphatanan, the most senior NLA member at 88 years of age.

The main item on the agenda will be the selection of the NLA's president.

Legal expert Meechai Ruchuphan has picked up momentum as the leading candidate for that post, a legislative source said.

Meechai has become a favourite over other two veterans, Chai-anan Samudavanija and Prasong Soonsiri, the source said.

"Meechai is outstanding as a veteran whom military and government officials have respected for his long record of providing legal advice to governments and assuming top legal posts in the past," the source said.

In random interviews with some NLA members, Meechai was mentioned as qualified for the NLA presidency.

"I want to see either Meechai or Thammasat University rector Surapol Nitikraipoj assume the NLA presidency. They both have the capacity to do the job," said Nitipoom Nawarat, who received the most votes among Bangkok candidates in this year's Senate election before the military coup on September 19 disallowed both houses of Parliament.

Kanchana Silapa-archa, an NLA member and former Chat Thai MP, said the NLA president should demonstrate excellence in legal affairs and parliamentary rules of order. Meechai was best in both areas, she said.

Meechai has solid experience for the post since he has served as a Senate speaker and legal adviser to the government for several terms, she said.

Sombat Maethani, another winning Bangkok candidate in the last Senate race, said Meechai was one of the top candidates for NLA president as the position called for someone with extensive knowledge and understanding of national legal affairs. Meechai meets those requirements, he said.

Thammasat's Surapol did not deny that he would accept the NLA presidency if elected. But he said the president should not hold other positions concurrently such as permanent secretary, rector or Army chief.

Many of the 242 legislators reported for work at the Senate Secretariat, which will manage administrative affairs for the NLA while the House Secretariat will do the same for the soon-to-be formed Constitution Drafting Assembly.

Among those showing up were former Navy chief Admiral Prasert Boonsong, former senator Wallop Tangkhananurak and gossip columnist Thaemsin "Ladda" Ratanaphan.

The NLA members are also expected to approve a draft royal decree on their compensation and benefits. Legislators are likely to enjoy the same wages and perks as senators, including a Bt104,000 monthly salary.

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