One-year time frame deemed unrealistic
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha admitted Wednesday certain areas of reform might not be accomplished within a one-year time frame and have to be left for the next government to pursue.
The prime minister was addressing a question about the possibility that the third stage of the road map to democracy set by the National Council for Peace and Order would be extended.
“If they [the National Reform Council (NRC) members] fight and argue with each other and can’t conclude or agree on anything, do you think it [the next step] can proceed? An election will take place when there is a new charter and national reforms,” Gen Prayut said.
Under the military council’s road map toward democracy, a new constitution must be in place by October next year. During this one-year period, the NRC is required to draw up guidelines and proposals for reform in 11 areas.
“If the new charter is completed and reforms start to take shape, then we have our first step. It is impossible to accomplish all the tasks. Some areas take time to materialise. The next government will have to take over,” he said.
Gen Prayut did not elaborate on which areas are likely to cause delays but political observers believe reform of the political arena — which will involve the election and the formation of an elected government — will be the most challenging.
The premier also called on the media to stop pressuring him to give an answer on when an election will be called, saying the road map was set in place. He noted he is neither a member of the NRC nor part of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) which has yet to be set up.
“I’ve already talked all about this. Look at the road map. The question is, can they implement following the road map? I am not part of the NRC or the CDC,” he said.
Asked about a remark by Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam that a general election may have to wait until early 2016, the prime minister said it would depend on when the charter is completed and it would take time to prepare for a poll.
NRC member and political scientist Sombat Thamrongthanyawong said it is too early to say which of the 11 required reform areas will be completed by the NRC and which will have to be implemented by the next government.
However, he said one of the NRC’s top tasks as required by the provisional charter is to offer suggestions to the CDC within 60 days from the date of its first meeting. The NRC is scheduled to convene on Tuesday.
He said the NRC will have to gather public opinions and submit them along with the NRC’s suggestions to the CDC.
“The tasks of political reform lie in the hands of the NRC. Giving recommendations to the CDC is one of them and the other involves proposing organic laws on elections, political parties and public independent agencies,” Mr Sombat said.
NRC member Anek Laothammatat said political reforms are likely to be completed within one year because they will have to be part of the new charter.
Other areas of reform, especially on the economy, education, corruption and good governance will take much longer to implement and materialise, he said.
“Making recommendations in every area within one year is what we are required to do. But I have to say they are unlikely to show results. The best approach is to make reforms dynamic,” Mr Anek said.
“We should have a good charter in a year. People across all sectors will be brought into the reform process. We should fix the flaws of all organisations as much as we can.”
Several NRC members played down Gen Prayut’s comment that the NRC should refrain from voicing their opinions in public and keep them for NRC meetings.
Manit Suksomjit, who is keen on media reforms, said NRC members should be able to voice their opinions as long they are useful to the public.
“The prime minister can say what he thinks. There is nothing to it. I think the NRC can express their views if they carry substance,” Mr Manit said.
However, NRC member Ticha na Nakhon said NRC members should not be barred from voicing opinions in public.
“The NRC members should not forget they are not elected by the people. So they have to encourage public input and bring them to the NRC,” she said.
She doubted national reforms would materialise within the limited time frame.