Doubts over junta panels

national August 15, 2014 01:00

By Somroutai Sapsomboon,

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Critics suspect bid to control reform council through selection committees

Experts expressed disappointment yesterday over the 11 committees appointed by the junta to select the National Reform Council (NRC), although some observers agreed there were restrictions that made the line-up far from perfect.
Critics have pointed to the fact that advisers to the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) were appointed to all 11 selection committees. Its advisers top the list of each seven-member committee and thus are poised to lead each panel. Critics see this as designed to allow the junta to influence the NRC’s final line-up.
Thammasat University political scientist Attasit Pankaew said there were no clear selection criteria for NRC members and there could be doubts about the transparency of the process. 
Khon Thai Party leader Utain Shartpinyo agreed, saying there were no clear selection criteria, not just for the NRC but also for the National Legislative Assembly. 
“No one can explain why there are three members of the Wongsuwan family in the NLA. There needs to be clear explanation for each member’s appointment,” he said.
Chulalongkorn University political scientist Chaiyan Chaiyaporn, however, said there were underlying reasons for such a selection process where people favoured by the junta dominated the NRC selection committees.
“The NCPO needs NRC members who can produce a reform agenda to create long-term benefits for the country within a short period of time,” he said.
Thai Health Promotion Foundation executive Wilasinee Pipitkul said she was satisfied with the names of the 77 selection committee members in general. 
“The name lists overall did not look bad. There are a number of high-profile, capable and active people. One doubt might be that there are very few representatives from civil society. So it is questionable whether the national reform will be able to represent all aspects and all groups of people,” she said.
A political observer, who did not want to be named, expressed his understanding. “The situation is now unusual. The NCPO controls political power, and it wants to do things the way it likes,” he said.
The observer said the NCPO obviously did not want to “waste” the power seizure, so it needed to put people it could trust into important jobs such as selecting the 250 NRC members. 
Among the NCPO’s advisers who top the lists of the 11 selection committees are: chief adviser General Prawit Wongsuwan on the political committee; Wissanu Krue-ngam on the national administrative committee; NLA president-elect Pornpetch Wichitcholchai on the law and judicial committee; former Army chief General Anupong Paojinda on the local administrative committee; former science and technology minister Yongyuth Yutthawong on the education committee; NLA member Narongchai Akrasanee on the economic committee; former Bank of Thailand governor MR Pridiyathorn Devakula on the energy committee; NLA member Air Chief Marshal Itthiporn Supawong on the health and environment committee; NLA member General Noppadol Inthapanya on the mass media committee; former finance minister Somkid Jatusripitak on the social committee; and General Dapong Ratanasuwan on the committee on other affairs.
Under the provisional charter, the NRC must “study and provide recommendations for reforms” in 11 areas – politics, administration of state affairs, the law and justice system, local administration, education, economy, energy, public health and environment, mass media, social issues and others. 
The NRC’s duties are to offer suggestions and guidelines on national reform to the NLA, the cabinet – to be formed later – the NCPO, and the Constitution Drafting Committee. The NRC will also approve a new constitution and a new electoral system.
The following are some of the well-known figures in the NRC selection committees.
n Prasert Bunsumpun, former PTT president
n Meechai Ruchuphan, former Senate Speaker
n MR Pridiyathorn Devakula, former Bank of Thailand governor
n Wissanu Krue-ngam, former PM’s Office minister
n Narongchai Akrasanee, former commerce minister
n General Prawit Wongsuwan, former defence minister
n General Anupong Paochinda, former Army chief
n Surapol Nitikraipoj, former Thammasat University rector
n Surachai Liengboonlertchai, former deputy Senate speaker

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