Junta's anti-graft moves welcome, but not all will be happy
July 29, 2014 00:00 By Jintana Panyaarvudh
The provisional Constitution, which went into effect on July 22, has made the country's future slightly clearer, especially when it comes to the next elected government once a permanent charter is in place.
There are some topics in the current charter that I would like to bring up, such as the military junta’s moves to rid the country of corrupt politicians.
Article 35 of the 48-Article provisional charter contains 10 unprecedented specifications for the Constitution Drafting Committee to follow and put them in the permanent Constitution.
The 10 specifications include graft-prevention measures in both state and private sectors, as well as a control on the use of state power.
The Article strictly prohibits “cheaters” – specified as people who have been convicted or indicted by legal order in corruption cases or for electoral fraud – from taking political office.
The charter also says the government’s spending must be for sustainable and fair development purposes. In other words, it prevents future governments from introducing so-called populist policies.
Unlike previous coups, junta chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha did not name corruption as one of the reasons to stage the coup on May 22.
However, these issues stated in the provisional charter are obviously aimed at tackling graft and corrupt politicians.
After the coup, political observers expected the junta to design a model for political and electoral reforms that are able to eliminate bad politicians and policies that lead to graft.
The spotlight was on mechanisms aimed at stopping convicted politicians or those indicted for corruption or poll fraud charges from taking office as well as to prevent a government from building its popularity or winning votes via populist policies.
This should automatically ban former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who faces a two-year jail term for abusing his power related to the purchase of land, and his sister – ex-PM Yingluck – who is indicted by the National Anti-Corruption Committee on dereliction of duty in relation to the rice-pledging scheme. It will also hamper Thaksin’s tactic of winning votes via populist policies.
The junta’s distrust in politicians is also displayed in its move to lessen or curb the influence wielded by politicians. Instead, the junta has boosted the power of bureaucrats, civil servants and senior government officials.
This move was made obvious through two National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) orders.
First was the introduction of police reforms, which has already shaken the political arena and looks set to diminish political office holders’ role and influence over police. Under the reform, it will be the national police chief, not the prime minister, who names his successor.
Then came the order suspending all local elections, a move that political observers see as an attempt to stamp out the influence of national-level politicians in local administration. These seats will be filled via a selection process.
The military can be commended for its good intention of solving the root cause of the country’s problems that have nearly always been created by politicians.
In some people’s eyes, politicians have always interfered in the transfer of senior officials, and few have said no to corruption. This is possibly why many people support the NCPO’s move to reform Thai politics and politicians.
However, the junta should also keep in mind that these politicians have supporters, who will get upset to see their representatives’ rights being violated. This could perhaps be a setback for the junta while it is trying to bring about reconciliation.