See More on Facebook

Politics

Junta loyalists pack Senate in Thailand

The senate will have a key role to play in choosing the next prime minister.


Written by

Updated: May 15, 2019

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) took a major step towards retaining power by naming scores of people it patronises and who are loyal to it as constitutionally endorsed senators.

Of the 250 names announced yesterday for the junta-picked Senate, 104 were military or police officers –retired and in service – while other figures included former members of junta-appointed bodies who had served the post-coup regime in the past five years.

The move marks an about-turn for the junta, which had pledged to stay away from politics and had come to power promising to cleanse the country of corruption and nepotism.

In addition to people from the Armed Forces, the senator list also included family members of junta leaders as well as close aides.

The list includes General Preecha Chan-o-cha, the brother of NCPO chief General Prayut Chan-o-cha; Admiral Sisthawatchara Wongsuwan, the brother of NCPO No 2 Prawit Wongsuwan; Air Marshal Chalermchai Krea-ngam, the brother of deputy PM Wissanu Krea-gnam; and former banker Som Jatusripitak, the brother of deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak.

According to the Constitution, the Senate can vote to help determine the country’s prime minister. Also, it has a whip hand to ensure the elected government complies with the 20-year national strategy written by the junta.

When cornered by reporters yesterday that the newly-appointed Senate was no different from the so-called “spouse” parliaments of the past dominated by politicians and their family members that the current regime had vowed to fight, PM Prayut, who had handpicked the 250 senators in his capacity as the head of the NCPO, explained that the junta-appointed figures were more efficient.

“Make the comparison. Look how many legislations they made in the past five years. It’s more than 500. Before that, how many did they do? It’s unparalleled.”

Meanwhile, junta No 2 Prawit who chaired the confidential committee that pre-screened the Senate candidates before Prayut’s final selection, ignored all media inquiries about their controversial Senate picks.

He refused to explain why so many of the Senate nominees were military and police officers and snapped on the selection of a number of his close aides.

“What are you talking about?” the general said, apparently upset by the question. But when reporters started naming several officers, including his brother, Prawit dodged past the media throng, got in his car, and left Government House.

As soon as the Royal Gazette published the names of the 250 successful senator candidates, there was widespread criticism. Despite a wide realisation that the NCPO would rely on the Senate to retain power, the list was seen as reeking of nepotism.

Weng Tojirakarn, core leader of the red-shirt movement, told The Nation that the Senate was dominated by pro-coup figures.

“We cannot place our hopes in them to bring back democracy,” Weng said, referring to the regime’s promise to restore better democratic rule. “Clearly, they [the senators] are here to support the NCPO and General Prayut. This is even worse than the ‘spouse parliament’.”

The senator selection committee was confidential. However, Weng called on the powers that be to unmask them and scrutinise if the selection process had been just and constitutional.

Jade Donavanik, an adviser to the now-defunct Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) responsible for the rules governing the selection of the Senate, admitted that the Senate composition was highly questionable.

However, he said the CDC had done its best to make the Senate a good mechanism in the checks and balances system. In the permanent clauses, the Senate should be cross-elected, he explained. The current situation was the result of the transitional provisions that will last five years, he said, adding that it should be the NCPO that should answer questions not the CDC.

Meanwhile, Seri Suwanpanont, a member of the newly elected senators who also had been in previous junta-appointed assemblies, was unfazed by the controversy over his selection.

“We come with responsibility as prescribed in the Constitution and other laws,” he said. “I am not concerned about anything, including the role to vote for the PM. We are already here. People will always have opinions no matter what we do. So, we have to be determined and have the courage to make a decision and do our job.”

Pheu Thai secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai questioned why the junta had spent as much as Bt1.3 billion only to name its associates to the Senate. The NCPO has never disclosed the names of the selection committee members as required by the charter, he said.

THE TRANSITION TO UPPER HOUSE

THE junta has spent Bt1.3 billion to handpick 250 names for the Senate, most of whom helped create the ruling National Council for Peace and Order. Now they will play the role of the junta’s guardians, by installing the new prime minister and controlling the implementation of the government’s 20-year national strategy. This handpicked Senate is a reflection of the patron-client tendencies and nepotism in the Thai political scene.

Six military /police members were named as senators based solely on their position, namely Defence Ministry’s permanent secretary-general General Natt Intrachroen, Supreme Commander General Pornpipat Benyasri, Army chief General Apirat Kongsompong, Navy chief Admiral Luechai Ruddit, Air Force chief Air Chief Marshall Chaiyapruk Didyasarin and National Police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


The Nation (Thailand)
About the Author: The Nation is a broadsheet, English-language daily newspaper founded in 1971 and published in Bangkok, Thailand.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Politics

After 19 yrs, polio back in PH

The anti-vaxxer movement has done it again. The Philippines is in the midst of a polio epidemic 19 years after it was declared polio-free, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III announced on Thursday. Polio is a crippling and at times fatal infectious disease. (See In the Know.) Duque said a single confirmed case signaled an epidemic in a once polio-free country. He said a 3-year-old girl from Lanao del Sur was diagnosed with a vaccine-derived polio virus type 2. The Department of Health (DOH) is awaiting confirmation of a suspected case of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP). Rabindra Abeyasinghe, country representative of the World Health Organization (WHO), noted that the type 2 polio virus had not been in circulation for many years and was certified eliminated in the Philippines. Metro Manila, Davao “[S]o the vaccination program that the DOH and other co


By Philippine Daily Inquirer
September 20, 2019

Politics

India bans e-cigarettes

The decision has been met with criticism and charges of favouritism. The Union Cabinet’s move on Wednesday clearing an ordinance for banning production, import, distribution and sale of electronic cigarettes and proposing a jail term and fine for its violators evoked mixed reactions among a section of Delhi doctors and other stakeholders. The Centre’s decision was slammed by trade bodies and certain stakeholders related to e-cigarettes, who reportedly alleged that it was a “draconian” move taken hastily in the interest of the conventional cigarette industry. They also charged that the government was depriving people of a safer alternative to smoking. Dr Gyandeep Mangal, senior consultant in Respiratory Medicine, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, said, “We are glad with the ban on e-cigarettes by Union Cabinet as these are as harmful as regular cigarettes. It is true that e-cigarette doesn


By The Statesman
September 19, 2019

Politics

Rohingyas in Voter List: EC staffers, fraud ring behind it

Electoral fraud sees Rohingya on voting list. A nexus of brokers and some dishonest staffers of the Election Commission’s Chattogram office provides forged national identity cards to Rohingyas, an EC investigation team has found. Three members of the syndicate were arrested on Monday. An EC laptop, used in the forgery, was recovered from their possession, EC Deputy Director (NID) Iqbal Hossain, head of the three-member team, told The Daily Star yesterday. The arrestees are Jainal Abedin, 35, office assistant of Double Mooring Election Office under the Chattogram EC office, Bijoy Das, 23, a driver, and his sister Sima Das alias Sumaiya Jahan, 26, said Mohammad Mohsin, officer-in-charge of Kotwali Police Station. Yesterday, Double Mooring Thana Election Officer Pallabi Chakma filed a case against five people, including the three, with the police station under the Digital Security Act, the OC said


By Daily Star
September 18, 2019

Politics

Japan officially removed from South Korea’s whitelist

Seoul has threatened the move for weeks. South Korea excluded Japan from its export controls whitelist Wednesday in retaliation for Tokyo’s earlier decision to remove Seoul from its list of favored trade partners, as bilateral relations have slumped to the lowest levels since normalizing diplomatic ties in 1965. “The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy has published the revision of the nation’s trade controls on strategic items in an official gazette and it took effect from Wednesday,” said the ministry spokesperson through a statement. Since the Aug. 12 announcement by Industry Minister Sung Yun-mo that Korea would drop Japan as a preferred trading partner, the ministry has completed the necessary administrative steps, such as soliciting opinions from the public and submitting the revised rules to the Office of Legislation for review. “We have received opinions from the public throu


By The Korea Herald
September 18, 2019

Politics

President blames China for ‘suppressing Taiwan int’l space’

The Solomon Islands is the latest country to not recognise Taiwan. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) strongly condemned Solomon Islands’ decision to establish diplomatic relations with China in a major statement released on Monday. The president blamed China for using “financial and political pressure to suppress Taiwan’s international space” and called Beijing’s action “a threat,” but also a “brazen challenge and detriment to the international order.” Taiwan’s attitude towards its diplomatic allies has been one of sincere friendship, she said, stressing that Taiwan spares “no effort” and treats allies with “sincerity.” In the face of China’s alleged interference, however, she added that “we will not stand to be threatened, nor will we be subjected to ceaseless demands.” The president also stressed that Taiwan will not engage in “dollar diplomacy” with China


By ANN Members
September 17, 2019

Politics

Rohingyas inside Myanmar still facing genocide threat: UN report

The report outlines a grim future for 600,000 or so Rohingya still trapped in Myanmar. Around 600,000 Rohingyas remaining inside Myanmar face systematic persecution and live under the threat of genocide, said the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar in a new report published today. “The threat of genocide continues for the Rohingyas remaining in Myanmar,” said Marzuki Darusman, chair of the Fact-Finding Mission. The Mission, which was formed by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017, last year said its investigation had found “genocidal acts” in Myanmar’s “clearance operations” in 2017 that killed thousands and caused more than 740,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh. “Myanmar is failing in its obligation to prevent genocide, to investigate genocide and to enact effective legislation criminalizing and punishing genocide,” Darusman said.


By Daily Star
September 17, 2019