Independent bodies should be open to acrutiny: top judge
Rethinking the status and mandate as well as scrutinising the so-called independent organisations under the constitution are necessary to ensure they are accountable and there will be no further confusion and overlapping of authority, said Visanu Waranyu, chief judge of the Supreme Administrative Court.
Visanu, who was speaking yesterday as keynote speaker at a seminar organised by prachatai.com online newspaper and Saphan programme, funded by the US Agency for International Development, added that even the Administrative Court does not have any jurisdiction over the work of these independent organisations, which includes the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Election Commission.
"Independent organisations need to have mandates no more than required. If they cannot be scrutinised, then that's a disaster. If they are not impartial and not subject to scrutiny, they could rock the state," said Visanu, who back in 1996 as a law lecturer at Thammasat University headed a government-appointed team to study the details and prospects of setting up these organisations under the now-defunct 1997 charter.
Visanu, nevertheless, defended the need to have independent organisations. "They are very useful. There's yet to be an independent organisation overseeing consumer rights," he said, adding that in France, where he did his doctorate, there was even an independent organisation tasked with making decisions on where each new road and railway should be located.
Chaturon Chaisaeng, former deputy premier in the Thaksin Shinawatra government, said there were problems regarding the power and mandate of some independent organisations, particularly the Election Commission (EC) which he believes exercises the powers of executive, legislative and judiciary branches. Chaturon said the EC conducts elections, passes electoral regulations and gives yellow and red cards to politicians. In effect, they have unprecedented power in an undemocratic way as the three powers ought to be separated in a democratic system, he explained.
"We cannot tinker with it [in order to reform] in a minor way. It's about fundamental flaws and [democratic] principles," he said. Chaturon acknowledged, however, that now that there's an attempt to rewrite the 2007 junta-sponsored charter, the issue of what to do with these independent organisations would not be resolved by achieving total consensus in society. He said he hoped society could deal with the differences and sort it out along the way in a peaceful and democratic fashion.
"Solutions where we all can agree on everything is no longer possible," said Chaturon.
Another speaker, peace expert Gothom Arya, urged the public to hold a deliberation to find a common solution agreeable to all.