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Indifference towards NRC points to underlying sc-epticism

IN THE week since the nominations for National Reform Council (NRC) members began last Thursday, the response has been disappointing.

As of yesterday, 999 had been nominated.

That is a long way below the estimate of more than 3,000 nominations made by the Election Commission, which has been assigned by the junta to oversee the nomination process.

However, there are still 12 more days for the nomination process, which ends on September 2. And it is likely many nominations will be made closer to the deadline.

The lukewarm interest so far, however, has surprised many observers. They ask why qualified people are not interested in becoming NRC members, who will play an important role in suggesting reform ideas to be incorporated in a new constitution.

It could be because of a lack of confidence in the selection process of NRC members. No clear regulations or guidelines have been set about the selection of these members. And the selection committees recently appointed by the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) have yet to convene any meetings.

Critics earlier questioned the appointment of the selection committee members, saying many are military men or advisers to the junta. In fact, according to the provisional charter, the junta has the final say in selecting the 250 members of the NRC from the nominations made by the selection committees.

Many prospective candidates may be discouraged by concern that the selection committees - both the 11 panels appointed by the junta or those in the 77 provinces - already have their "favourite candidates" to become NRC members. So those prospective candidates have opted to stay out of the nomination process.

The authorities involved should help allay such fears by making it clear there will be transparency in the selection process. The NCPO also should make such assurances publicly in order to ensure the latest reform efforts will be participated in by people from as many groups as possible. That way, the reform ideas will not be limited to only a few groups of people who could make their way to the NRC.

It does not matter how many nominations are made. What is more important is that there should be diversity and quality in the nominations.

The country's two largest political parties - Pheu Thai and Democrat - have refused to join the reform council. They cited many reasons, including the argument that this is not the time for politicians and the fact that the NCPO had gained power undemocratically. Moreover, many respected scholars have stayed clear of the junta's reform process.

Those people may be of the view that no matter what the NCPO's reform results will be, there must still be another round of reforms.

That new round of reforms would be carried out in a democratic atmosphere, at a time when there is freedom and under a process that is widely acceptable.

That new round of reforms should meet the desire for public participation, in which all sections of society truly take part in "people's reforms". That was the case in the reform efforts that resulted in the constitution of 1997.


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