Election chief backs calls to lift political ban

NCPO resists move, says time not right

Election Commission chief Supachai Somcharoen says that now there is a new constitution in place, it is time to lift the ban on political parties and activities. (File photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The Election Commission (EC) joined calls Monday for the government to lift the ban on political activities following the promulgation of the charter, despite the regime pleading for patience.

EC chief, Supachai Somcharoen, said he backed a proposal that parties be allowed to resume activities now the charter has been royally endorsed.

He expressed confidence parties would have enough time to make preparations for a general election regardless of whether the National Council for Peace and Order, which has the final say on lifting the ban (NCPO), does so.

The EC chairman's comments followed a Pheu Thai party statement calling on the regime to speed things up to ensure a timely election and revoke orders issued that were not in line with the new constitution.

According to Pheu Thai, royal endorsement of the charter marks the start of a return to "democracy" which it describes as a key factor necessary to address the country's problems.

The regime is urged to bring things up to speed so a general election can take place as stipulated in its political roadmap, which could easily be early next year, the party said. Moreover, the government and the NCPO should refrain from exercising its "special powers" under the charter as this would affect civil rights and liberties and be disrespectful to the royal institution.

The regime should also consider revoking any orders that are not in line with the constitution, the party said.

It also called on the regime to create an environment favourable to elections and unity-building and which allows all stakeholders to freely air opinions about bills and scrutinise its performance for the sake of transparency and accountability.

Also on Monday, NCPO spokesman Piyapong Klingpan called on parties to exercise patience, saying the political ban is still necessary because order has not been fully restored.

He also said drafting of the four organic laws necessary for holding a general election is not yet complete and will take about eight months.

The Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) is working on four organic laws necessary for holding national polls.

The CDC is required to draft them within 240 days of the charter promulgation and forward them to the National Legislative Assembly for scrutiny.

The assembly then has 60 days to deliberate and pass the bills.

"Even though the overall situation is fine, there are some ill-intended people [trying to make trouble]. We're seeking cooperation from the political parties to refrain from conducting any activities and the NCPO will review the ban when the time is right," he said.

Col Piyapong also said the government will use its power in a fair and honest way and in the country's best interest.

Panithan Wattanayakorn, adviser to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, said the political ban is likely to remain in light of recent events such as the discovery of a weapons cache in Pathum Thani.

According to Mr Panithan, the arms cache is linked to a hardcore political group and while it is unclear whether there is a political motive, conflicts may be rekindled if political activities are allowed to resume.

He was referring to an arms haul allegedly linked to hardcore red-shirt leader Wuthipong Kochathamkun, alias Kotee.

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