Thai Junta wants reforms done quickly

Permanent secretary of defence General Surasak Kanchanarat yesterday urged the soon-to-be-formed National Reform Council to quickly propose measures so the military junta could leave the scene as scheduled.

Surasak said his team had earmarked "five to six" topics covering political reform issues.

"If the reform council has other issues they can add them. But do not debate too much, as it will be time consuming and will make the National Council for Peace and Order [NCPO] stay [in power] longer," he said.

"And when it stays longer, there will be people who despise [it] and cause difficulties.

"I acknowledge that the NCPO is not a very pretty thing for a democratic system. There are people who say the NCPO should stay in power for five to 10 years but if we stay that long then we all will die of old age. Let's not stay that long but let us stay in accordance with the roadmap of the NCPO leader."

The general, who is part of the ruling junta, was speaking at a seminar on reform hosted by the Defence Ministry in collaboration with King Prajadhipok Institute (KPI).

The 700 people from eight local administrative organisations who attended the seminar were asked to answer five major reform questions.

- What kind of parliament will be suitable for Thailand and should the lower House and upper House be elected or partly appointed and how should they be scrutinise and impeached, and should they belong to a political party or not?

- How should political parties be reformed to make them truly mass-based with people's participation and not just a political party belonging to a person or a few people?

- Should a system of directly electing the prime minister be adopted and would it be suitable in the current political situation?

- How should politicians be fairly scrutinised and impeached.

- Should the title of Bangkok governor be changed because they are elected?

Thawilwadee Bureekul, director of KPI's Research and Development Office, said the questions were honed so that the participants could make a meaningful contribution to the process.

Surasak, who gave the opening speech at the seminar, said that by listening to various sectors he had discovered that political reform was the main highlight of the national reform process followed by how to tackle graft and corruption, and reforming the bureaucracy.

He added that political reform included deciding how politicians should be chosen, scrutinised and punished.

Surasak said many people thought the National Anti-Corruption Commission was too slow in prosecuting bad people but there was also the danger of convicting innocent people.

He stressed that decentralisation was important but he had no details on how it should proceed.