By WASAMON AUDJARINT
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday said he would exercise his absolute powers under Article 44 to amend the Political Party Act to give parties more time to proceed with “administrative tasks”, including updating their party membership, given the current tight deadline of January 5.
The issue has been intensified by the junta’s political ban maintained since the 2014 coup. Chaturon Chaisang
Key Pheu Thai Party figure Chaturon Chaisang said the Article 44 order would focus on trivial elements, while not allowing parties to perform important tasks that required meetings.
“This special order shows that the NCPO [National Council for Peace and Order] does not respect even its own [political party] law,” the former deputy prime minister said. “It is meant to only soften blows against itself while the agenda to keep down parties still remains.”
While the junta government also said on Tuesday that the political ban could be lifted next June, when the MP election bill might be promulgated, Chaturon said that would leave only five months for parties to organise everything before the election.
“Policy-making, for instance, requires a lot of time ahead of election campaigns. It doesn’t just come out of the blue,” he said.
Siripan Nogsuan Sawasdee, an expert on political parties at Chulalongkorn University, also said the absolute order seemed “too trivial to be true”, adding that it could be involved with a hidden agenda.
“It could be the NCPO’s signal to put even more pressure on parties to play by their set of rules,” Siripan said. “The use of Article 44 should be for something significant, not trivial. After all, their [the NCPO’s leaders] ultimate goal will be to bring parties to support them in power after the election either way.”
Other political heavyweights, including Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, expressed frustration that the latest order was unclear about what extent parties could or could not do.
Although his party was not troubled by the Article 44 order, the NCPO needed to ensure that it would provide fair and clear conditions for all parties equally, Abhisit said. “I don’t think this is to buy time for [the power-that-be] to set up new parties, as every party has to follow the same timeline,” he said. “It shouldn’t affect [the junta’s] road map either.”
Nikorn Chamnong, Chart Thai Pattana Party director, agreed that the new order needed to state clearly what was allowed given that the political party law stipulated several different timelines for parties.
“It should also be considered in light of the political party system, rather than merely the election, as well as people’s rights as party members,” he said.
Meanwhile, National Legislative Assembly (NLA) Vice President Surachai Liengboonlertchai has indicated the body was open to amending the law by the normal legislative process.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said the extension would be done in steps with the first 90 days allocated for updating party member lists.