July 16, 2014 00:00
By Khanittha Thepphajorn
Many political reform proposals being discussed at present are not new. The country already has ideas worth considering. Some were proposed before the 1997 "People's Constitution" was drafted - but were not adopted at that time.
That constitution was a result of political reform that took place under the Banharn Silpa-archa administration in 1995. Banharn appointed a reform committee chaired by Professor Likhit Dhiravegin. The 1997 constitution put reform proposals presented by the Likhit committee into use, but several good proposals were not implemented and remained just innovative ideas.
The Likhit committee said the reason the political sector was weak and unstable was that influential people manipulated and exploited parties in order to acquire power. The solution was to free party members from their domination or such influence. Party members needed to have an equal say in a party’s decisions and be able to manage its affairs democratically and transparently, it said.
In regard to the Upper House, it said selection of senators should come from three sectors: political, academic and various professional groups.
Various sectors of society could have a selection committee to vote among themselves and nominate candidates. Nominees from the three sectors with the most support would win. Each sector would have to have at least one nominee in the chamber.
To get qualified ministers, parties would have to present a list of ministerial candidates, but they must possess better qualifications than ordinary MPs, such as a good track record, knowledge and management skills.
To boost checks and balances, legislation such as a conflict-of-interest bill was proposed to prevent people who hold political office from using inside information for personal gain.
The proposed law would also have banned politicians from using direct or indirect power to influence state agencies for their own interest and would have required officials to transfer to the state any gifts worth more than Bt5,000 presented to them in return for their work.
Any state contracts that are signed must not include direct or indirect contributions to politicians.
After leaving office, politicians should face a ban on taking up positions in private companies.
The Likhit committee also proposed the setting up of a special court to hear election-related cases.
Voters should be able to launch impeachment proceedings in Parliament against MPs or holders of political office if they win support of at least 10 per cent of total eligible voters. Meanwhile, party-list MPs could face impeachment, if 20,000 voters support such a move.
When the Parliament president calls a vote on an impeachment petition, the decision requires support of more than two-thirds of the total members of the House of Representatives. Ministers who also serve as MPs should automatically lose their MP status if they are disqualified and step down from their ministerial post.
A total of 30,000 people can ask the Parliament president to conduct public hearings to launch a no-confidence debate against ministers. And ministers can be removed from office if more than half of the total number of MPs support such a move.
To protect and promote freedom and people’s basic rights, the Likhit committee proposed that leaders who are good role models be promoted from every level and that education be reformed to promote democracy.