NACC to ease assets declaration rule

Last-minute bid to defuse opposition

Government legal expert Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam (inset) has met with secretary-general Worawit Sukboon and officials of the 'independent' National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) over the issue of asset declarations. (File photos)

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is looking at exempting some position holders from declaring assets and debts under a new anti-graft rule in a bid to defuse growing opposition, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said Wednesday.

Mr Wissanu revealed the progress in resolving the controversy surrounding the NACC's new assets declaration rule. No NACC official was present at the media conference.

The regulation requires senior officials holding executive positions such as department deputy director-general, university rector and other equivalent positions to declare their assets and liabilities.

It also obliges their spouses and children to submit declarations of their assets and debts to the NACC.

It was earlier scheduled to come into force last Sunday but the NACC deferred it to Jan 31, following fierce criticism.

The NACC is considering how best to resolve the problem based on the principle of good governance, he said.

The anti-graft agency has now come up with a latest solution by dividing position holders into three new categories, Mr Wissanu said.

The first group is those who are not required to submit declarations of their assets and liabilities because there is no risk that they will be involved in any corruption, he said. He didn't say how he arrived at that conclusion.

The second group is those who must submit the declarations, but the details of their assets and debts will not be made public, he said.

The third group is those who must submit the declarations, and the details must be made public, Mr Wissanu said.

The NACC is expected to amend the assets declaration regulation and include the new categories of position holders.

Mr Wissanu ruled out the possibility that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will invoke the all-powerful Section 44 to resolve the issue as this will be an act of interference with the NACC.

The NACC will find ways to handle the problem by itself, Mr Wissanu insisted.

The new assets declaration regulation was published in the Royal Gazette on Nov 1.

Among early critics of the move were people holding positions on university councils.

They called for the rules to be removed, saying they could trigger a mass exodus of members loath to see the details of their assets and liabilities go public.

There are fears the mass resignations would affect quorums of meetings, which would affect the councils' decision-making process.

The NACC did not revise the rule, but extended the deadline to mollify critics.

The postponement, however, applies only to certain organisations and some positions at universities -- the president of a university council, members of a university council, president of the council of King Prajadhipok's Institute, vice-president of the council and members of the council.

High-ranking officials are already required by law to declare their assets and debts, as well as those belonging to their spouses and children.

The same holds true for those who rank as holders of political office.

Following resistance, the NACC previously decided to apply the same deadline for declaring assets and debts under the rule to all types of senior officials and committees in state organisations.

At its meeting on Nov 27, the NACC resolved to grant the same deadline extension to all other positions, a source told the Bangkok Post.

Several members of organisations in the public health sector tendered their resignation ahead of the NACC rule obliging them to declare their assets and liabilities taking effect next month.

The National Health Security Board met on Monday to appoint four new advisory members after those in the positions resigned.

Three of the Healthcare Accreditation Institute's eight advisory board members had also tendered their resignation, while two members of the Health Systems Research Institute's board have expressed a desire to resign but will wait to see whether the NACC amends the rule.

Charas Suwanwela, president of Prince of Songkla University's council, said Wednesday that five members of the council had tendered their resignations, but he had not yet approved them.

He said he will call a meeting of the council on Dec 15 to discuss what action should be taken to solve the problem.

If council members resign, this would have an impact on the running of university affairs, he said.

Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin reiterated his call for members of university councils to withhold their resignations as the NACC has now come up with a way around the problem.

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