NCPO eyes populist policy ban

The junta has given “prescriptions” for the new permanent constitution to include measures preventing populist policies that could endanger the economy, an NCPO source says.

NCPO chief Prayuth Chan-ocha chaired a meeting Thursday at army headquarters on Ratchadamnoen Avenue to examine details of the draft of the 45-section provisional charter, drawn up by a special panel from the Council of State.

Also present at the meeting were the junta’s legal advisory panel led by legal expert Visanu Krue-ngam and representatives from the Council of State, which serves as the government’s legal arm.

The draft interim charter provides for the establishment of a 200-member national legislative assembly, a 250-member national reform council and a 35-member constitution drafting committee responsible for writing a permanent charter.

The interim charter also gives the NCPO special powers over the interim government to deal with security issues, as well as to grant amnesty to members of the junta who seized power from the Yingluck administration on May 22.

The source said the NCPO had laid down “prescriptions” for the constitution drafting panel to consider and include them in the permanent charter.

Chief among them is a measure to regulate national budget spending and prevent misspending of state funds on populist policies that would jeopardise the financial system, the source said.

Another measure prescribed by the coup leaders is for the charter drafting panel to consider whether some of the existing independent organisations remain necessary and to retain only those which are, the source said.

Other measures include creating efficient mechanisms to prevent and crack down on corruption, reform the judicial system, create a merit system and promote moral values in the national administration, and establish well-defined administrative relationships between the central, regional and local government bodies, the source said.

After the meeting Mr Visanu, who is also the chief adviser to the interim charter drafting panel, said he spent 10 minutes explaining the details of the interim charter to the junta.

Mr Visanu insisted Gen Prayuth did not comment on the matter and did not ask about the scope of the NCPO’s authority under the interim constitution.

He said there should be no problem with the draft and when the final document is ready, the NCPO chief is expected to discuss it publicly.

Mr Visanu noted that the interim charter will have 45 sections, more than other previous interim charters in the past, because it contains more than 10 sections relating to the reform council. He added that it is “normal” for all interim charters to justify the legality of the actions of the coup-makers.

Junta spokesman Winthai Suvaree said on Thursday the NCPO meeting made only minor changes to the draft interim charter, although he declined to elaborate.

He said Gen Prayuth instructed the NCPO’s legal advisory panel and the interim charter drafting panel to make changes to the draft as suggested by the junta.

Col Winthai said the NCPO chief is expected to submit the draft interim charter to His Majesty the King for royal endorsement by the end of this month.

Thammasat University political scientist Somchai Phagaphasvivat welcomed the junta’s move to include measures against populist policies in the permanent constitution.

However, he said scrapping all populists policies may not be possible, and stressed that not all populist policies are “villains”.

Mr Somchai suggested policies designed to appeal to the public be adjusted to boost competitiveness and stimulate sustainable economic growth.

Populist policies that are not damaging to the country’s financial discipline must be implemented transparently, and spending on the policies must come under effective scrutiny, he added.

Thailand Development Research Institute president Somkiat Tangkitvanich said it is necessary to put money which had been set aside for the ousted government’s projects, which required spending outside the state budget, back into normal budget procedures.

However, he said the NCPO should not prevent populist policies from inclusion in the permanent constitution.

Mr Somkiat said it should be left to political parties to present such policies to members of the public and the public should be allowed to decide which policy suits them.

Meanwhile, US ambassador Kristie Kenney on Thursday stressed the need for the junta to return the country to electoral democracy, with an inclusive reform process.

Speaking on the eve of US Independence Day celebrations, she said the NCPO should also stop detaining people so all Thais could be free to participate in the reform process.

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