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Political role for the NCPO could break law: Meechai

Nov 09. 2017
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By KHANITTHA THEPPHAJORN,
KASAMAKORN CHANWANPEN
THE NATION

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JUNTA LEADERS SAY PM’S QUESTIONS MEANT TO SOLICIT PUBLIC’S OPINIONS

THE National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) would risk breaking the law if it officially supports a particular political party, Meechai Ruchupan, head of the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) and a member of the NCPO, warned yesterday. 

The caution came after NCPO chief General Prayut Chan-o-cha on Wednesday asked the public six questions concerning elections and future politics. In one question, the junta head asked whether the NCPO had the right to support a particular political party.

The new organic law governing political parties forbids outsiders from being involved in the administration of a political party. 

Meechai, as the chief charter writer and a veteran legal expert, said it was a basic political right for individuals to support parties, but they could not do so in the name of a political institution such as the NCPO. 

“Supporting a party is a right. It’s a preference, We can donate money. But we cannot intervene, using our power and force people to choose [a particular party],” Meechai said, adding that such behaviour would necessarily constitute unfairness in the election contest.

However, Meechai said he believed Prayut might have only wanted to know what people thought. 

“Although I cannot possibly know what Prayut’s thinking, I’ve learned from talking to him that he does not want to pursue a position [after the election],” Meechai said. “And I don’t think he posed the questions because he wants to stay on in power. Even if he wants to stay, he didn’t need to do that.” 

Meechai added that people naturally were concerned with the progress of their work, but regardless of that concern they were obligated to withdraw when “it was time to stop working”.

Politicians and academics have said Prayut’s latest questions are dangerous, in a move that indicated the NCPO’s intention to retain power and legitimises undemocratic rule. 

However, government officials brushed aside the accusation, saying the six questions were only a means to understand people’s thinking. Wissanu Krea-ngam

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said Prayut might have only wanted to hear people’s views of politics. 

In the past, the stage to voice complaints had been dominated by “political stars”, he added.

“If you don’t think the questions made any sense, then it’s okay. But we want you to voice your opinions. Otherwise, there will be only a handful of [political] celebrities that get to express their thoughts.”

Regarding the observation that the NCPO’s advocacy of a political party might constitute a violation of the law, Wissanu said the NCPO had not really taken any action yet. 

Support could come in many forms and the NCPO had some leeway in that context, he added. 

However, he said, if it was wrong, “then so be it”, suggesting that the NCPO would accept the consequences.General Prawit Wongsuwan

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan said he believed that Prayut only wanted to communicate with the public. 

Prawit said he had watched the news on television and saw that people liked the idea of the questions.

“Some of you may think that the questions are suggestive. But that is all in your head,” he said. “I assure you that the NCPO is not trying to build political currency or anything like that.”

Six months ago, Prayut posed four similar questions concerning elections, politics and politicians’ behaviour after being pressured to call for an election.

The matter was taken seriously as a national event with people encouraged to answer the questions via various means provided by the government, including at Damrongdhamma complaint centres under the Interior Ministry.

Centre staff on Wednesday told The Nation that approximately 1.1 million people had responded to the four questions raised at the end of May. 

All the answers were processed and passed on to government officials, staff said. 

However, it is unclear how the government considered the answers, as no conclusions have been issued and the campaign is still ongoing with feedback still solicited.

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