Some 400 kamnan and village headmen staged a brief rally at Parliament yesterday while lodging a petition calling for the legislature to drop a draft bill on local administration.
Their petition claimed that provisions in the bill would have adverse impacts on the job status of local chiefs.
“Should Parliament neglect to heed the petition, I believe several MPs will not get re-elected,” lead petitioner Yongyot Kaewkieo said.
Yongyot said the House and the Senate should drop the draft without delay because provisions were written without factoring in opinions of kamnan and village headmen. He urged the upper chamber to intervene and review the push by the lower chamber to pass the bill.
“The bill has been drafted despite the opposition of kamnan and village headmen,” he said.
Deputy Senate Speaker Surachai Liengboonlerschai accepted the petition on behalf of Parliament. He promised to forward it to the House committee in charge of the draft.
“Should the draft reach the Senate floor, senators will conduct a thorough scrutiny in order to ensure maximum benefits,” he said.
Draft committee member Attaporn Ponlaboot said he had doubts on whether the petition represented the view of most local chiefs.
“I suspect kamnan and village headmen held their rally because of a misunderstanding,” he said.
Attaporn, a Democrat MP, said the draft was actually designed to increase benefits for local chiefs and not to put a cap on the serving term, as alleged.
Coalition and opposition MPs agreed to initiate the bill after a public hearing, which showed that people wanted to elect their local chiefs, he said.
The draft provisions include a clause for local residents to elect their kamnan to serve a five-year term, he said, but there was no cap on terms served if re-elected.
Village headmen would also be elected officials, he added.
Under the draft, kamnan and village headmen would not be subject to mandatory retirement at the age of 60. In a transitional clause, incumbent kamnan and village headmen would be allowed to remain in office until retirement at 60. The draft would apply to their successors, who would have to be elected.