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Junta decrees are undermining elected government's power

In three extraordinary decrees issued on Tuesday, the National Council for Peace and Order stripped all future prime ministers of the authority to nominate the commander of the Royal Thai Police. That authority will now be vested in the incumbent national police chief.

Secondly, while the prime minister will continue chairing the Police Policy Commission, it will no longer have Cabinet ministers as members.

They're being replaced by their ministries' permanent secretaries, who by majority vote will be able to override the prime minister on decisions of the commission.

Thirdly, seniority was institutionalised as the central criterion of advancement in the police force, making outstanding performance incidental, if relevant at all.

The effect of these "reforms" is to make the police accountable to (you guessed it) the police.

Elected government will have no control over the force, just as it has no effective control over the Army, Air Force or Navy, as events over the past several years demonstrate.

These decrees, along with efforts underway to create an appointed Senate and weaken the House of Representatives, reveal what is at the core of the ruling junta's reform strategy. And that is to eviscerate elected officials by transferring power to appointed ones that are self-perpetuating, as in the case of the national police chief.

Confronted by the prospect that supporters of the ousted government might prevail in the next election (as they did following the 2006 coup), the junta is transferring power to an "iron triangle" formed by the permanent bureaucracy, the security forces and the amart elite - each reinforcing the others.

The next elected prime minister and Cabinet ministers will enter offices stripped of any real power. They will form a government in name only. It will be able to propose, but it will be the iron triangle that decides.

Are these "reforms" good or bad? Well it depends on where you sit.

Robert Jacobs

Bangkok


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