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PM unveils reform assembly plan

Photo : Pramote Putthaisong

Photo : Pramote Putthaisong

Govt won't be involved in setting up body, election to proceed as planned on February 2

CARETAKER Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday floated the idea of setting up a reform assembly in parallel with preparations for the February 2 election, but analysts said it would not work, and the protest movement immediately rejected it.

On a special TV programme, Yingluck said the post-election government would be committed to continuing the work of the so-called National Reform Assembly.

She called for all sectors of society to join the assembly to lead the country out of conflict.

"My government has listened to suggestions of several sides from several forums and agrees that reforms are needed in the social, economic and political dimensions," she said.

To start the process, an 11-member committee would be set up to organise the assembly, then 2,000 people would be recruited from professional groups and organisations throughout the country. They in turn would select 499 members from among themselves for the council.

The committee formed to organise the selection process, Yingluck said, would specify qualifications and other conditions of those who wished to be on the 499-member council.

The 11-member committee would include the supreme commander of the Armed Forces, the secretary-general of the National Economic and Social Development Board, chiefs of government agencies, and the president of the Board of Trade of Thailand.

Yingluck insisted that her government would not get involved in the establishment of the assembly. The Prime Minister's Office and the interim Cabinet would only acknowledge the council, but their official approval would not be required. She did not give any indication of how long the assembly would operate, though earlier she suggested a term of two years.

Legal entity

Thongthong Chandrangsu, permanent secretary of the PM's Office Ministry, said Yingluck would need to use her authority to issue a Prime Ministerial Order to endorse the council as a legal entity, as the caretaker government has no mandate to enact any other form of law. The new government after the election could upgrade the order to a law through the parliamentary process, he said. By this weekend, Yingluck will begin the task of recruiting members of the 11-person committee to set up guidelines for establishment of the assembly, he said.

"We want to see representatives of all sectors to set the agenda for the reform. It might not be a constitutional organ, but I believe the new government will make a commitment to reform."

Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of the People's Democratic Reform Committee, earlier proposed a "People's Council" that would comprise 400 people, of whom 300 would come from various professional organisations and 100 would be selected by the PDRC.

He wanted Yingluck to step down and hand power over to his unelected council to carry out "reforms", which critics say have not been well defined. However, some academics also doubt the government's sincerity over the establishment of a reform assembly. A similar forum chaired by former prime minister Banharn Silapa-Archa was set up under Yingluck's government months ago but it did not work, said Thivakorn Keowmanee, of Naresuan University.

Independent academic Asdang Panikabutr said he did not oppose the idea of such a forum but was worried it might be influenced by politicians.

"Why not simply make an agreement among the political parties on what to reform after the election, and do it when they have the people's mandate?" he said. "Previously people have kept talking about reform but [there has been] no action."

PDRC spokesman Akanat Promphan said government-sponsored reform was not what the protesters wanted and it would not work. The government had just proposed it as a decoy to get support for staying in power, he said.

Ongart Klampaiboon, deputy leader of the Democrat Party, said people would not accept reforms proposed by the government.


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