Govt insists it won't ease politics ban

Poll timing 'depends on organic laws'

The ban on political activities will also remain in force even after the promulgation of the new constitution Thursday, though the government insists it will stick to its roadmap leading to a general election.

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said that restrictions on political parties' activities will not be eased even after the enactment of the new constitution.

"Please wait until things become orderly. There is still about one year left [before the poll is held]," Gen Prawit said.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting Tuesday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha confirmed his deputy Wissanu Krea-ngam's earlier statement that the roadmap for the election will kick off Thursday when the new constitution is officially endorsed.

According to a Royal Household Bureau statement published in the Royal Gazette on Monday, His Majesty the King will attend a ceremony Thursday at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall where he will sign to officially endorse the new constitution.

"It is Day 1 [of the process under the roadmap] as Mr Wissanu earlier said. As for the drafting of the constitution's organic laws, it will proceed according to the original time frame [after the new charter is promulgated]," Gen Prayut said.

Asked to comment on reports that some members of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) and the National Reform Steering Assembly will resign to run in the poll, Gen Prayut said he had no objection to their decision.

But they will have to resign within 90 days of the new charter being enacted to run in the poll as required by the new constitution, Gen Prayut said.

Asked if the government will still be able to control political parties during the lead-up to the poll, Gen Prayut said the government so far has only enforced the law to maintain order and push for reform.

Based on the new constitution, the election is expected to be held in the next 18 months or October next year at the latest.

However, when asked which part of next year a general election could be expected, Mr Wissanu said he could not say exactly when, and that it depends on the passage of the election-related organic laws.

The poll will be held sooner if the four organic laws relating to elections are passed by the NLA before the 10-month time frame, Mr Wissanu said.

Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) Meechai Ruchupan said Tuesday that the CDC has finalised the two organic bills essential for holding the general election -- one on the Election Commission (EC) and the other on political parties.

The CDC will submit them to the NLA for deliberation on April 18, he said,

The CDC is required to finish the drafting of the 10 organic laws within 240 days and forward them to the NLA for deliberation, but the two organic bills must be finished first first, Mr Meechai said.

This is because the bill on political parties will allow political parties to prepare for the poll including setting regulations, recruiting members, while the bill on the EC will provide for the selection of two more commissioners -- a process which will take two months.

Under the new charter, there will be seven commissioners. Therefore, the poll agency which currently has five members needs to have two more members to organise the next general election.

When the two new EC members are chosen, the CDC will then submit the other two important organic bills -- one on the Senate and one on the MP elections -- to the NLA, Mr Meechai said.

He said the new charter stipulates that the selection of 250 senators, mostly selected by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), must be complete 15 days before the MP elections, so both houses can start work about the same time, eliminating the need for the NLA to temporarily perform the Senate's duties.

Also on Tuesday, Mr Wissanu said a meeting of the permanent secretaries of all ministries will be held at Government House Wednesday to discuss the scope of their duties under the new constitution.

Mr Wissanu said some work procedures will be different from the previous charters. For instance, there are changes to the way new legislation is proposed. There are also more administrative procedures that must be handled carefully, he said, while the cabinet will also have to follow new procedures.

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