Independent agencies get mixed reviews
Experts have been giving mixed reviews about the role of the country's so-called independent organisations, which were set up 15 years ago under the now-defunct 1997 Constitution.
Prof Surapol Nitikraipot, legal expert and ex-rector of Thammasat University, defended the existence of independent organisations, saying they were needed because Parliament has long failed to maintain checks and balances.
He was referring to organisations such as the Election Commission, the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Administrative Court, the Constitutional Court and the National Human Rights Commission.
The professor was speaking a seminar organised by King Prajadipok's Institute (KPI) to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of independent organisations according to the Constitution yesterday.
Surapol, a keynote speaker at the seminar, said the public should not listen to politicians who want to rid the Kingdom of these organisations, because they want full control without any scrutiny.
"Politicians tend to abuse their power, so independent organisations were created in order to supplement and create a balance within the parliamentary system," he said, adding that long single-term tenures, good salaries and having their own staff means these organisations can work without depending on politicians.
He asked how many politicians were banned from politics before these independent organisations were set up 15 years ago. "The answer is none," he said.
However, other speakers at the symposium were slightly less enthusiastic.
KPI researcher Udom Rat-amarit said the one unanswered question was "who are these organisations accountable to?"
"We must wonder who they are accountable to. They should not be treated like saints. How can we make these organisations accountable? When their objectives are not met, who will hold them responsible?"
Another problem, Udom said, was some people's belief that organisations like the Election Commission or the Anti-Corruption Commission were being used as political tools to selectively punish one side.
Thienchai na Nakorn, a law lecturer at the Sukhothai Thamma-thiraj Open University, mentioned the problem of overlapping authority and jurisdiction.
"We must think about the parameters of their political power," he said.
Chalat Jongseubphan, a sociology lecturer at Burapha University, expressed similar concerns, saying the Thai society has not achieved a consensus on the parameters of authority of these organisations and that they had been set up in a hurry.
He said these organisations needed to be restructured, adding: "We need grass roots participation as well."