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26 December 2013
Read in Minutes


Govt may set up its own reform council

Rejects call for executive decree; Election Commission to draw lots for party election numbers tomorrow

The government yesterday turned down a suggestion by seven private-sector organisations for it to issue an executive decree to allow a political-reform council to be set up – but it looks likely to form such a body itself.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission (EC) is likely to proceed with party-list candidate registration today after anti-government protesters ended their blockade of the Thai-Japanese Stadium yesterday. The EC is scheduled to draw lots for party poll numbers at the centre at 9am on Thursday.

Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana said an executive decree in the current situation would be “rather difficult”. He explained that a law would not be binding on the post-election government.

He said a working group was studying the relevant laws and gathering opinions to determine whether setting up a reform council could be done by a transitional government. He added however that this matter would be not tabled for the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Dec 25).

According to a source, it is likely the government reform council will be similar to that set up after the student-led uprising on October 14, 1973, when there was no elected House of Representatives. One proposal has called for the council to have 300 members – 200 chosen from representatives of different occupations and 100 appointed from academics. The council’s term would be less than two years.

PM’s Office Minister Varathep Ratanakorn said he had never heard of an executive decree being issued by a caretaker government, and there was fear of possible legal action if this was done. However, he said the government would heed the proposal to set up a reform council.

Thailand Development Research Institute president Somkiat Tangkitvanich yesterday presented a six-point solution to bring the country out of the current political deadlock.

In an article obtained by the media, Somkiat suggested political reform be processed before a general election, reasoning that any government which comes to power after an election would not want to bring about reform.

“Both the government and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) agreed that Thailand needs national reform. But both disagreed on whether the election or the reform should come first,” he wrote.

“In my opinion, stances of both sides are problematic. They are rather trying to take political advantage than to join hands for real reform,” Somkiat wrote, adding that Yingluck Shinawatra and Abhisit Vejjajiva governments both set up national reform bodies but none of their proposals had been implemented.

He said he backed the proposal of seven private organisations that the government immediately set up a body to manage national reforms by issuing an executive decree to create confidence that reform will proceed after the general election.

The reform committee should comprise not more than 30 members, one third nominated by the government, one third by the Democrat Party and the PDRC, and the civic group suggested one third made up of academics, businessmen and working groups such as farmers and labourers who must be accepted by both parties.

The reform committee must not be dominated by any side and must have a mechanism to accept opinions from the public.

Proposals by the reform committee must receive three fifths of total votes in order to get the government to accept any measure – to ensure proposals are acceptable to all sides.

To ensure effectiveness, the reform committee should propose not more than five major urgent reform topics believed to be at the root of political conflicts such as systems and regulations to acquire power, checks and balances, anti-corruption, populism and financial discipline, as well as justice system reforms related to political conflicts.

The committee should present reform measures with a specific timeframe for implementation, starting with simple measures and followed by more complicated moves.

If the government fails to implement reform or intentionally delays the process, the committee should propose that the government dissolves Parliament and calls a new election, he wrote.

The People’s Democratic Reform Commission resolved yesterday to withdraw its supporters from the site, declaring their operation a success, in showing the movement’s opposition to the February 2 general election.

The EC yesterday resolved to retain its candidate registration venue at the Thai-Japanese Stadium until Friday, EC secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong said.

He said his office had prepared seven back-up venues if they needed to shift to elsewhere. He said the drawing of lots to allocate party-list numbers would be conducted by Friday, the last day of candidate registration.

“If we can’t hold the draw the EC has to consider how they will proceed,” Puchong said.

Some 34 political parties were regarded as having submitted party-list applications on Monday.


First published: The Nation,  December 25,  2013