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All eyes on the setting up of the NRC, charter drafters

IN ADDITION to the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), all eyes are now trained on the formation of the National Reform Council (NRC).

This agency will not just decide upon the direction that national reforms take, but will also have a say in the content of the new constitution, which will remain in effect even after an elected government takes over. After all, 20 of the 36 members of the charter-drafting committee will hail from the NRC, and it will be the NRC chief who appoints members of the charter-drafting agency.

Hence the directions the new charter and the national reform eventually take will depend very much on who the members of the NRC are and who selects them.

By tomorrow, the NCPO is expected to name members of the 11 selection committees, who will then shorlist NRC members for each of the 11 areas of reform. Then, on Thursday, the nomination of NRC candidates will begin.

Like the Senate, the NRC will be divided into two groups - one representing the 77 provinces and the other representing their areas of expertise. The only way the NRC will be different from the Senate is that not a single member will be elected.

Meanwhile, committees representing the 77 provinces will nominate five candidates each, and the NCPO will then choose one nominee per province.

The selection committees for this category have already been stipulated - based mostly on their position, such as governors, provincial Election Commission members among others - in the Royal Decree.

However, at this point, very little is known of how the 11 seven-member panels focusing on the 11 areas of reform will be selected. All the Royal Decree says is that each panel will comprise seven members who are considered experts or have experience in specific fields.

Each committee will be in charge of selecting candidates for one of the 11 fields of reform, namely politics, administration at state level, local administration, law and justice system, education, economy, energy, public health and environment, mass media, social issues, and other issues.

These committees will eventually shortlist up to 50 people in each area of reform from the names that are put forward by non-profit legal entities. The NCPO will then choose a maximum of 173 individuals, of the 550 or so nominated, to join the 77 provincial representatives to make up the 250-member NRC.

The legal entities that are eligible to nominate NRC candidates include 3,146 registered non-profit organisations, 200,000 temples, universities, and 73 registered political parties. Each entity can nominate two candidates.

While major political parties like Pheu Thai, Democrat and Chart Thai Pattana have already said they would not nominate anybody, other smaller parties such as Phalang Chon, Bhum Jai Thai and Chart Pattana have agreed to participate.

However, unlike Democrats, who have moral reasons for staying away from the junta, Pheu Thai's key members say they choose not to send over a party member because they believe their proposals will not be accepted.

This clearly reflects distrust in the coup-makers, who have the final say in who makes up the NRC. And some people - not just Pheu Thai members - simply do not want to collaborate with coup-makers. This is despite the fact that the NCPO has said it wants all Thais to have a hand in the country's reforms.

Now a pertinent question arises: If people are being given a chance to have a say in making big changes to their problem-plagued country, why aren't they joining?

Can it be because the sacrifices are too great? After all, members of the charter-drafting panel cannot hold any political position for two years, not to mention the added pressure from the general public.

However, even though NCPO chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha insisted on Saturday that the NRC would be allowed to work freely, it should be the ruling council that takes all the responsibility because it will name each and every NRC member.

In other words, the NCPO's influence is not necessarily ever going to evaporate.


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