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PM returns to spotlight in fine voice

Posted by pakin On October - 21 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

AFTER staying out of the spotlight for a week, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha returned yesterday looking somewhat calmer.

Before presiding over the Cabinet meeting, he began the day by jokingly kicking a boxer who was visiting Government House to promote cultural campaigns.

Prayut then told reporters that he had been busy preparing for the “five rivers” meeting next Wednesday, as well as other events. The prime minister managed to retain his style of “elaborating”, but his voice seemed softer than usual.

That was until he was asked about the legitimacy of the charter-drafting process, especially the public acceptability of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) members.

“If you don’t like how the country is now, then go back before May 22 [last year],” Prayut replied, referring to political clashes before the coup. “Could those conflicts solve political issues?” Prayut seemed to relax before raising his voice again. “It’s been long that I haven’t been this loud.”

In the course of the 40-minute press briefing, the PM managed to convey his disapproval of “limitless democracy and freedom”, referring to how Thailand suffered from a series of political conflicts. The government will also strive hard to solve previous problems and put everything in place, he insisted.

Prayut also announced his intention to make rarer public appearances, but stressed that he would still provide interviews on important issues.

“The PM has been fine with us,” said Government Spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kawekamnerd, who has been appointed to fill in when the PM is less inclined to assume his public role. “We haven’t had any problem speaking for him so far.”

The less frequent nature of Prayut‘s public appearances will not necessarily keep the government from getting its message across, however. The prime minister’s updates can still be tracked through his “Returning Happiness to the People” TV programme every Friday.

Observers believe his rare appearances are unlikely to obstruct news reports, as major procedures relating to the government, such as the charter drafting, are still only at the beginning.

PM insulated from order on Yingluck damages

Posted by pakin On October - 15 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Wissanu say only endorsement from Finance minister needed to seek compensation over rice scheme

PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha did not need to ink an administrative order to have ex-PM YingluckShinawatra pay compensation for losses over the rice pledging scheme as only an endorsement of the Finance Minister was needed, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said yesterday.

Wissanu was speaking after Yingluck’s lawyer argued that the PM’s move to issue an administrative order to make Yingluck pay compensation might be deemed abuse of authority and motivated by politics.

Wissanu said legal specialists met half a month ago and resolved that the PM did not need to endorse the administrative order in the latter half of the legal procedures to make Yingluck pay compensation for damages incurred in the rice subsidy scheme.

“Article 5 of the Liability of Wrongful Act of State Official 1996 stipulates that when state officials who committed a wrongful act are not under the jurisdiction of any agency, the Finance Ministry will be in charge of the case. Yingluck is not under the jurisdiction of any ministry, so her case will be under the responsibility of the Finance Ministry, Wissanu said.

Wissanu defended against criticism that legal specialists were resorting to a legal tactic to prevent Prayutfrom being sued for abuse of power.

“We are not trying to protect the PM. Look into the law. The PM co-signs with the ministers in charge of the case only in the first half of the procedure and not the latter half. If General Prayut must sign but he fails to do so, then the order will be invalid. The PM has announced that if there is anything wrong, he will take responsibility,” Wissanu said.

Wissanu said the PM himself was taken by surprise when he learned he needed not to sign any more documentation.

He added that the government would continue with its decision to issue the administrative order in Yingluck’s case because if the government does not take action before the two-year statute of limitations expires, the National Anti-Corruption Commission would sue the government and make it pay the compensation for the losses over the rice subsidy.

Norawit Lalaeng dismissed a statement made by Wissanu that the government had no alternative but to take recourse under the Liability of Wrongful Act of State Official 1996 because Yingluck committed gross negligence over her handling of the rice pledging scheme.

He cited that the Charter Organic Law on Anti-Corruption Act 1999 did not specify which law must be applied to seek compensation.

Meechai seeks PM meet on charter job

Posted by pakin On September - 29 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Legal expert Meechai Ruchupan wants to meet for talks with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha before deciding whether he will chair the new Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC), Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said Monday.

Mr Wissanu said Mr Meechai will discuss the matter with Gen Prayut after the prime minister returns from the UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday.

Mr Wissanu earlier admitted he had asked Mr Meechai to head the new charter drafting panel. Media speculation about Mr Meechai taking the panel’s helm has been rife.

Mr Meechai did not set any conditions for his participation, Mr Wissanu said.

He only wanted to ask the premier who will also be appointed to sit on the 21-member charter drafting committee.

Gen Prayut, in his capacity as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) chief, has 30 days to pick new charter drafters after the National Reform Council (NRC) on Sept 6 rejected the draft charter written by the now-defunct charter drafting committee led by Borwornsak Uwanno.

The NRC itself was also dissolved.

Mr Wissanu said the charter drafting process is a major task and charter drafters will have to race against time to finish their jobs. In light of this, it is natural for anyone who might chair a committee to want to know about the other members’ background so they can work as a team, Mr Wissanu said.

If Mr Meechai accepts the invitation to head the drafting committee, he can also propose some charter drafting candidates for Gen Prayut to consider, the deputy prime minister said.

Mr Wissanu said three or four other people have also been approached to chair the drafting panel if Mr Meechai declines the offer. Mr Wissanu refused to disclose who they are.

Mr Wissanu said there are about 30 potential panel members, adding the list of potential candidates will be cut down to 21 before submission to the prime minister for a decision.

Mr Wissanu also said the chairman of the new drafting charter panel will not necessarily be a legal expert.

Anyone who has made an honest living can be a candidate for the position, he said.

He added the interim charter also prevents the charter drafters from holding any political office for two years after finishing their job, to prevent any conflict of interest.

When asked if Mr Meechai, who is also an NCPO member, can help shorten the charter-drafting process, now set at six months, if appointed to lead the drafting panel, Mr Wissanu only said the role of NCPO members is different from that of charter-drafting panel members. His experience in working for the junta is regarded as an asset, as it could speed up the process.

Meanwhile, National Legislative Assembly president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai said Monday he knew nothing about a report the NCPO would approach Gen Jira Komutpong, a former NRC member and a former Judge Advocate-General, to chair the new CDC if Mr Meechai turned down the offer.

Mr Pornpetch also said it is up to the prime minister to decide whether to appoint NLA members to sit on the new CDC.

Old charters can be used, advises Prayut

Posted by pakin On September - 15 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

BUT RULES OUT POLITICIANS PARTICIPATING IN WRITING OF NEW DRAFT

PRIME Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has said it is possible to bring old charters – including the most recent draft shot down – to the table if the next charter draft failed in a referendum.

Prayut ruled out politician participation in writing the new charter.

Speaking after the opening ceremony of the 12th National Economic and Social Development Plan seminar yesterday, he said he had no thoughts about amending the interim charter if the next referendum fails.

But he then commented on the possibility of considering and merging the 1997 and 2007 charters with the draft charter recently rejected by the National Reform Council to create a new constitution.

“The 2007 charter was somehow good. The 1997 version was, on the other hand, from the people, while the CDC’s [Constitution Drafting Committee] version – you said it was from the junta, right?” PM Prayut said.

“As we wish to move forward in peace, I think I also have the right to include mine. We have to consider which part is useful. I mean, if people understand that too.”

The prime minister said it was better not have politicians sitting on the new CDC, and he could not envision them on it.

“It’s better [that they] propose ideas outside the ring,” he said.

Prayut said he also had no thoughts on taking back some CDC members to help write the new charter although they had done a good job. He would consider using some of their work as it was useful.

He said he had explained the reasons behind the need to have mechanisms like the proposed National Strategic Reform and Reconciliation Committee (NSRRC) to politicians, including Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, and they should understand by now that they will not have the great power he had.

He said it was up to them if they still disagreed with the idea of having it, but after listening to his explanation they should be able to think for themselves.

‘Reform’ steering panel

Considering the problems the country faced, the next government should realise it needed a mechanism like a steering committee for the economy as well as other matters.

This should be in place for a certain period so state agencies could move in the same direction, but it would be in place no more than five years, he said, adding that the country needed a national strategy to move forward, apart from political parties’ policies.

Prayut insisted he did not propose the NSRRC for it to be rejected later, but the committee’s suitability needed to be considered in the context of the country.

He said he was only facilitating the new charter drafting process, and it would not be fair to criticise him because if the process failed again it would once again come back to him to kick-start. The government was sticking to the reform road map, but the third phase was delayed because the draft charter was voted down.

He insisted he did not order the charter to be passed or rejected.

Prayut said his government was pushing forward reform and if the work were unfinished it would be passed onto the next government.

He said the fear of failure was not acceptable when doing whatever was needed to resolve conflicts. It was an anti-coup measure, and as such a steering committee was needed.

“If it’s the time to have an election, let’s have an election, but for now shall we help one another keep the country in peace,” he said. ” Shall we not waste time having a democracy without governance. Find the one that brings equality and dignity to us all.”

Today the government will have a meeting to consider the new CDC members and the new reform steering council members.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, meanwhile, rejected the notion that he was invited to chair the new charter drafting committee.

He said the vote-down of the draft charter could be worth reviewing if people said so.

He said it was too early to talk about amending the interim charter. People should focus on setting up the new charter drafting committee and the new charter drafting process first.

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