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Proposed NACC wiretap powers would be unconstitutional, Meechai says

Dec 19. 2017
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By KHANITHA THEPAJORN,
KAS CHANWANPEN
THE NATION

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A CONTROVERSIAL proposal to allow the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) wide-ranging authority to wiretap phone calls of politicians and government officials was called an “infringement of rights” yesterday.

Meechai Ruchupan, head of the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC), yesterday warned such a move could have an adverse effect on legislators if it is allowed. Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, president of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), admitted the power could affect people’s rights and legislators would have to seriously consider such an infringement of rights.

The reaction came after a vetting committee agreed initially to authorise the NACC, in the new organic law governing the agency, to tap the phone calls of politicians, government officials and other people to enhance their graft-fighting work.

The proposal is in addition to the committee’s other controversial proposals, including a refusal to reset the membership of the whole NACC.

NLA ‘negatively affected’

Meechai said such power could be considered unconstitutional, given that the new Constitution of 2017 protects the rights and freedoms of citizens.

The issue had nothing to do with recruiting capable people but with empowering the committee, he said.

The NACC would have excessive power that would have a long-lasting impact that was inappropriate, he added.

He said that if the NLA insists on the stipulation, it could have a negative impact on NLA members.

Pornpetch conceded that the stipulation could affect rights and freedoms, although violations of the law needed to be taken into consideration.

Eavesdropping might be necessary within the law, he said, adding that the Computer Crime Act allowed similar operations.

Independent political scientist Chamnan Chanruang said wiretapping could be allowed by law, but he added that it should only be a temporary measure and authorities should not eavesdrop on people all of the time.

He said evidence gained from phone tapping was inadmissible in court if the operation had not been legally approved previously.

Asked whether it could be considered an infringement of rights, Chamnan said that while privacy is very important, the public interest had to be the number one priority.

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