The government decision to increase the number of National Legislative Assembly (NLA) members to 250 will probably help to ease conflicts within the NLA while expediting the passage of new laws, according to sources close to the assembly.
These new laws include scores of legislative bills that need to be endorsed by the assembly, in addition to the 10 organic laws that will be written by the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) that the new constitution requires in preparation for the next general election.
The Cabinet and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) jointly made the decision to appoint more members to help with the NLA’s legislative work.
There are currently 218 NLA members, down from the original 220. Thirty-two more members need to be appointed to reach the 250-member target. Since the 2014 coup, the legislative assembly has deliberated 232 draft laws, 178 of which have been promulgated. More than 180 of the bills were proposed by the Cabinet, 21 by the NCPO and 29 by the NLA itself.
Many NLA members have complained about their workload, as they have been appointed to many subcommittees and have to attend many meetings. As a result, some meetings have failed to muster a quorum and could not proceed with their work.
In addition to approving new laws, the NLA also has the duty to decide whether to impeach holders of political office and whether to endorse political appointees, as well as pose questions for deliberation.
While the assembly was relatively unified when it was appointed two years ago, NLA members have recently been involved in disputes among different factions, according to sources close to the NLA. There has been lobbying and bargaining, and in some cases factions have not been able to reach an accord.
In one high-profile case, the NLA split over the nomination of former Medicine Department director-general Rewat Wisarutwet as a new ombudsman. The NLA voted to reject Rewat’s nomination, but he was re-nominated for another round of voting amid lobbying and dissatisfaction expressed by rival factions.
Finally, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, in his capacity as the NCPO chief, issued an order to suspend the appointment of all new members of independent agencies, including for the Office of the Ombudsman. That order in effect ended the simmering conflict.
Many NLA members, including those from the military, bureaucracy and businesses, have expressed frustration about excessive lobbying within the assembly, even during the process of appointing subcommittee members. And they also said they were upset that draft laws were revised too drastically during the vetting process, according to sources familiar with the matter.
All of these issues contributed to a lack of unity within the legislative assembly.
Complaints from upset NLA members were passed on to General Prayut through his aides, and some assembly members met with him in person to air their dissatisfaction, according to sources. If the increasing disappointment is not properly addressed, unexpected problems could explode, sources warned.
Prayut knew about the problems in the NLA and had also voiced concern to his close aides, according to the sources.
By appointing 32 new members to the NLA, he should see the headache be partially addressed by establishing a “balance of power” regarding other colleagues who are considered problematic.
The timing will be just right, some sources said. New NLA members need to be appointed within 30 days, in time for the mandatory retirement of senior bureaucrats and military commanders at the end of September. Many military commanders close to the current government are expected to be appointed to the NLA.