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Scepticism over national strategy

Plan shows regime intends to cling to power, says critic of 20-year strategy.

THE NATIONAL Legislative Assembly (NLA)’s passage of the 20-year national strategy and reform draft bills yesterday drew mixed reactions from a politician and a scholar, while the bills’ drafters insisted the inclusion of security officials was necessary.
Political critic Sukhum Nualsakul said the legally binding, long-term plan clearly showed the political ambitions of the military-installed regime to cling to power but he did not express concerns because he said he believed society would find a way around it.

Scepticism over national strategy
Former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he was disappointed over limited public participation and concerned the strategy would become a burden for future governments.
Sukhum, the former rector of Ramkhamhaeng University, said he was not surprised by the passage of the two laws, as they had been on the agenda of many coup-installed regimes in their attempt to prolong their hold on power. However, such efforts had not proved successful in the past, he added. 
“Look at Thanom [Kittikachorn] and his regime. He also tried to lay down a foundation for the succession of absolute power. But then it just did not work,” he said. “Look at Thanin [Kraivichien]’s proposal for 12-year political reforms. That, too, turned out to be a failure.”
The critic said he was confident that the strategy would collapse when the public will was strong enough to reject them. “In two years, five years or whatever, if people say no, they [the bills] cannot persist,” Sukhum said.
Meanwhile, Abhisit, the current leader of the Democrat Party, said it was disappointing that the national strategy draft bill had only been open to limited participation.
The process was not in line with the intent of the Constitution, which intended that people participate more in legislation, he said. The writing and passing of the draft bill relied mainly on the NLA, he said.
The strategy would be more effective if people were aware of it and took part in it, the former prime minister said.
Abhisit said the national strategy would be a burden on future governments, making it more difficult to implement policy. 
Other critics were concerned that the committee overseeing the national strategy would be dominated by military or security officers.
Admiral Pallop Tamisanon, a spokesman of the committee vetting the draft bill, said the five top Armed Forces officers would be responsible for security matters in the 20-year strategy and insisted that five was the right number.
He also said the 20-year timeframe to which the country would be bound was not too long given it covered short, medium and long-term plans. In other countries, similar plans were created for 20 to 50 years, he said.
The comments came after the NLA endorsed both laws yesterday after about three hours of deliberations with no major disagreements. 
The NLA had a small debate over the inclusion of the presidents of the lower and upper houses of Parliament and the exclusion of the judicial branch in the committee, but resolved to maintain original stipulations.
The committee will be responsible for creating a national strategy that is intended to play a significant role in shaping public policies and bind governments and governmental agencies over the next 20 years.
The reform draft bill will set up 11 committees overseeing 11 points of reform. Each committee, comprised 13 members appointed by the Cabinet, will serve a five year term. 
After the bill takes effect, the current National Reform Steering Assembly will be dissolved according to the Constitution.

Published : June 22, 2017