Prayut has a lot of juggling to do with new charter's Article 44

Prayut has a lot of juggling to do with new charter's Article 44
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha

Though the government has been bashed for invoking power under Article 44, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha insists he wants to use it "constructively" to tackle the country's problems, citing for instance the airline crisis brought on by the recent downgrading of Thailand's air-safety standards.

In addition, many are calling on him to use this special power to solve other problems as well, such as forest encroachment, deforestation and even overpriced lottery tickets.

The powers-that-be believe that using "fast-track" special powers is easier and quicker than having to go through normal procedures that include the legislature and bureaucracy. If things are done following normal procedure, then there are far too many time-consuming processes, such as issuing new laws.

As a member of the Army top brass, it is not surprising that Prayut tends to prefer "special powers". However, using these special powers means he is not running the government as a prime minister, but more like a junta leader who won "sovereign power" through a coup.

Overseeing the country as the National Council for Peace and Order chief gives Prayut power over all branches of the government as well as the provisional charter, which already gives him ultimate authority.

But one can't help but ask if our system is going backwards with this special power?

Before the May 22 coup, the country had three branches of government: the administration, the legislature and judiciary. For four months after the coup, the first two branches fell into the hands of the coup leader, Prayut, and some legal cases were snatched away from civilian courts.

Later, the provisional charter was promulgated, setting up the administrative and legislative branches in the form of the government and the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), respectively. The NLA is responsible for issuing new laws, while the government is in charge of running the country.

However, with Prayut now opting to invoke Article 44, it looks like he wants to hold the "sovereign power" that he enjoyed shortly after ousting the last government, before the interim charter was created. If that is the case, then Article 44 makes Prayut both the government and the law of the country.

The premier has been under immense pressure, as things have not been going the way he wanted.

Progress towards the junta's roadmap for Thailand's return to democracy has so far been unsatisfactory and many problems are worsening, such as a slower economic recovery.

Plus, his limited time in power is running out and pressure is piling up, both from inside and outside the country.

He is now in a difficult position. Not exercising enough power will keep problems unsolved, but exercising too much power will get the country "addicted to strong medicine".

As a result, Thailand will end up being unable to solve the country's problems through normal procedure, when there are no "special powers" at hand.

Besides, there's no guarantee that special powers will be able to solve problems successfully every time.

However, for now, Prayut needs to decide how much of these special powers he wishes to use, because the more power he uses, the more harmful the consequences will be.

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