Junta chief defends make-up of National Legislative Assembly

national August 02, 2014 01:00

By The Nation

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The junta chief last night defended the composition of the National Legislative Assembly, which critics say has too many military figures.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha said he was aware of the criticism that the NLA was not democratically set up and that different groups in society were not equally represented. However, he said, the focus should be more on the end result of achieving national reform. 
“In addition to the factors of knowledge, ability, confidence and trust, it is necessary to focus on effectiveness, unity and the ability to respond to the NLA’s main mission, which is achieving national reform within the short-term period of one year,” Prayuth said. 
Speaking on his weekly “Returning Happiness to People in the Country” TV show, he added that with the formation of a new government, there would be “temporary Thai-style democracy”. His weekly programme is broadcast every Friday night. 
Of the 200 NLA members, 105 are military officers, 66 of whom are active, and 10 members hail from the police force. The remaining 85 members are former senators, university rectors and businesspeople.
His Majesty endorsed the list of NLA members on Thursday night. 
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) chief said that members of the soon-to-be created interim cabinet and National Reform Council would also be selected. 
“They will both  consist of military officials, civil servants and people who support us. Please pay attention to how they could help the nation,” he said. 
Separately, Senate secretary-general Norarat Pimsen said yesterday that her office would look into reports that General Thawatchai Samutsakorn may not qualify for NLA membership, because he was previously a member of the Chart Pattana Party. 
Aziz Phitakkumpon, the Chularatchamontri  or Sheikhul Islam of Thailand, has also chosen not to take up the offer to be an NLA member, a close aide said. Aziz will write to the junta chief explaining that his role as Muslim spiritual leader in Thailand is the highest he ever wanted, and prefers not to accept any other position. 
Meanwhile, the Association of Organisations Protecting the Thai Constitution pointed out in a statement that the fact that military and police officers made up to 56 per cent of the NLA went against the interim charter’s Article 7. 
The group, led by activist Srisuwan Janya, said the appointment of NLA members should also take into consideration knowledge and experience as well as ensure they come from different sectors, which may help in the assembly’s performance.
The group said it would on Monday file a petition with the Office of the Ombudsman, asking for a Constitutional Court ruling on whether the NLA’s composition is constitutional. It will also seek a court order telling the NLA members to suspend their duties pending final judgement. 
Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday that the NLA’s composition was not surprising, as the NCPO needed lawmakers who would follow its policies. 
Prachak Kongkirati, a Thammasat University political scientist, said criticism was inevitable as the NLA members had not been elected – a fact that was no different from previous post-coup legislatures. He added that it required mass-media scrutiny to ensure transparency. 
Political scientist Assadang Panikabutr called on NLA members to focus on national interest rather than personal benefit.
Chaiyan Chaiyaporn, a political-science lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, urged the NLA to heed public opinion as much as possible before making any decisions.
On its first day yesterday, 34 of the 200 NLA members reported to work at Parliament. NLA members have until Tuesday to report for work before the assembly convenes for the first time on August 7. 
Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, legal adviser to the junta chief, is tipped to be chosen as NLA president.
The NLA includes several figures seen as being against of the “anti-Thaksin regime”. They include former National Anti-Corruption Commission secretary-general  Klanarong Chanthick, and former senators such as Surachai Liangboon-lertchai, Somchai Sawaengkarn, General Somjetn Boonthanom; Tuang Untachaiand; and Jetn Sirataranond.
The only figure who is on Thaksin’s side is a former permanent secretary for Defence, General Nipat Thonglek.