Elected governors with a larger budget for provincial administration was one of the key points brought up at People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) national reform forum yesterday.
Key speaker Prof Charas Suwanmala, a former dean of the Faculty of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University, said that 10 or 15 provinces were ready to shift to the elected governor system and that it could be implemented as soon as a new, non-elected government is put in place.
In his speech, Charas listed the aspects of the new system, which would include a provincial “people’s council” that would scrutinise the work of the elected governor and would have the authority to impeach the governor should problems arise. He said the central government would continue to handle foreign policy, national security, military and fiscal policy.
“With decentralisation, the concentration of power and the fight for it would cease. Having a centralised state and a representative democracy are failures. If the central government does not transfer power to local governments, both will go bankrupt in the future,” he said.
Charas added that provinces that felt ready to adopt the system of an elected governor should endorse the system through a referendum first.
Pongpayom Wasa-puti, a former Interior Ministry permanent secretary who chaired the forum yesterday, said this was a perfect opportunity to decentralise power in Thailand.
“This is a golden opportunity, the best chance and it won’t come again,” he said, referring to the possibility of a non-elected government being put in place to run the country for 12 to 18 months as demanded by the PDRC, which hopes to oust the Yingluck Shinawatra administration soon.
Pongpayom added that decentralisation would allow provinces to enjoy greater opportunities, efficiency and a larger budget.
One speaker pointed out that people in provinces such as Pathum Thani and Chon Buri paid higher taxes than the amount allocated to them under the national budget, while a participant said that pushing for decentralisation through a military coup might be the best way forward.
At the beginning of yesterday’s forum, PDRC secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban clarified that decentralisation did not mean secession. “Don’t interpret it into something else,” he warned.
Yesterday’s forum was the third of the six planned to discuss six key issues.
PDRC spokesperson Akanat Promphan said people across the nation “must participate” in the reform process. Though no more than 300 people were present at the forum held in the Lumpini Park’s Youth Centre, the PDRC is also eliciting views online and says it will later hold consultations with people across the Kingdom.