NCPO may pick trusted allies

national July 25, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

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Legislative assembly likely to be packed with military officers, bureaucrats and those with close ties to the junta

The National Legislative Assembly can be expected to consist of military officers and civil servants, past and present, who are trusted by the ruling regime, critics warned.
“The NLA will be dominated by people in the Armed Forces and bureaucrats. And there may be some former senators with close ties [to the National Council for Peace and Order], as well as businessmen and academics who have worked with the NCPO,” Trakoon Meechai, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, said yesterday.
The NCPO would favour those they can trust to ensure unity within the 220-member unelected law-making body, he said.
The provisional charter was designed to allow the NCPO to pull the strings over the NLA and the Constitution Drafting Assembly when they are set up. These two bodies will play key roles in the next stages of post-coup politics, he added.
Many military brass are also expected to join the future cabinet and other organisations, such as the reform and reconciliation councils, political observers said.
Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong, who is also deputy NCPO director, is in line to become a deputy prime minister, while General Surasak Kanjanarat, permanent secretary at the Defence Ministry, is tipped to head the reconciliation council, the sources said.
Pridiyathorn Devakula, a former Bank of Thailand governor, is tipped for finance minister in the new government and noted economist Somkid Jatusripitak as the commerce minister.
Legal expert Wissanu Krea-ngam, who is among the key architects of the interim charter, is expected to head the NLA, according to the observers.
Borwornsak Uwanno, secretary-general of the King Prajadhipok’s Institute, said the drafting of a replacement for the constitution that was repealed following the May 22 military coup would be completed within 11 months, judging from the timeframe outlined in the interim charter.
The new charter would help prevent the election of corrupt politicians, who could be banned from politics for life, he said in his keynote speech at a seminar on national reform organised by the institute and the Defence Ministry.
To keep bad politicians out, the Election Commission should have the power to screen candidates for Parliament to ensure that voters get to choose from those who are qualified and possess a good track record, a former EC member told a reform panel.
Since the NCPO shifted the country into reform mode, such a proposal to give more clout to the EC is not unprecedented. The EC has already suggested that it has the right to review proposed policies before political parties use them during election campaigns to woo votes. 
The intention is to prevent state losses from populist policies like the rice-pledging scheme.
Prapan Naikowit, the former EC member, said the EC should impose the same criteria on MP candidates as those for National Legislative Assembly candidates, that is, they must not have been convicted by the three courts for abuse of power, dereliction of duty, or drug or vice offences.
“I propose that the EC screen noble candidates for voters to select, as General Surasak Kanjanarat mentioned during the opening ceremony,’’ he said.
Panitan Wattanayagorn another political science lecturer at Chulalongkorn, said the problem with the country’s political system is that only one group of people has acquired power and previous charters have given them huge power but provided a weak checks and balances system. 
“We must design a mechanism that gives opportunities to people from various sectors of society to become MPs,’’ he said.
Besides, the charter should reflect “Thainess” from the Thai way of life, the submission culture, the belief in seniority and military hierarchy, he said.
The proposal for a single house and a limit on MPs of two back-to-back four-year terms might lead to unwelcome consequences, he said. 
While there is a third alternative to the dictatorial parliamentary system and military dictatorship, Thais choose not to go for the third way out because they prefer populist policies and favour totalitarianism, he added.

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