The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)'s decision to put eight mega-projects worth a total of Bt140 billion under the microscope and set up a committee to scrutinise state agencies' spending has been hailed as a move toward good governance.
However, critics still harbour doubts, asking why the military does not include “outsiders” such as technocrats or experts in its committees in order to ensure transparency.
With the current scrutinising mechanisms comprised mainly of military and bureaucrats, transparency is questionable because these officials have no choice but to follow the NCPO’s orders.
Since the NCPO has already come up with a formula that it says will ensure transparency, then it should allow independent agencies to double check, correctly pinpoint flaws and punish actual offenders.
After all, the key reason for the power seizure was to suppress corruption.
However, evidence from previous coups has shown that the military has been unable to bring those they accuse of corruption to justice.
The NCPO should realise that transparency is the key to success. Since it took absolute power in May, the junta has already put the country in reform mode. It has also announced that it will spur economic growth with mega-projects worth trillions of baht.
The NCPO has been ushering in a new era of reform, by reorganising and putting new regulations on sectors that have a significant impact on society, ranging from public transport vans, taxis and motorcycle taxies to proposing Smart Classrooms and setting up well-equipped school laboratories.
Sadly, the junta’s move to put migrant workers under new regulations has triggered a mass exodus, putting many business sectors under threat. The workers reportedly began fleeing after hearing rumours that the military was using heavy-handed tactics to expel migrant workers – an allegation the military has flatly denied. The NCPO defended its decision to put in place new regulations as a move to protect migrant workers from abuse and police extortion.
The junta’s initiatives – ranging from checking the state rice stockpiles to paying farmers for rice pledged with the state and cracking down on illegal logging, tree felling, gambling dens, trade in narcotics and war weapons – have been a breath of fresh air for the public. Many people have started to see the military in a new light.
In addition to this, the military has been regularly holding national reconciliation activities, moves to “return happiness” to people and dissolve different political colours across the country.
On the legal and executive fronts, there is talk that a legislative assembly and a Cabinet will be set up soon, and reports have it that some members of the NCPO will take over certain ministries.
With so many activities under its control, transparency is perhaps the only mechanism that will prove that the NCPO has been carrying out its work with fairness and righteousness.
The junta should remember that it is under the radar not just locally but also internationally. Thailand tops the list of countries that have experienced military coups, and now, Thais along with rest of the world are watching closely to see if NCPO’s promise of restoring democracy and bringing the country back to its glory proves to be just lip service.