Thai PM Prayut not barred from 'crisis' panel

There are no rules in the new constitution that prevent Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha from becoming part of a commission that will have the power to suggest solutions in times of political crisis, a spokesman for the Constitution Drafting Committee said yesterday.

Kamnoon Sidhisamarn said that the transitional clauses would specify further details about this matter as well as set out the authority |and scope of the National Strategic Reform and Reconciliation Commission (NSRRC).

"The constitution drafters would prefer to see office holders from the post-election government on the commission. But the existing rules do not prevent General Prayut from joining it," Kamnoon said.

Critics allege that the proposed NSRRC is an attempt by the powers that be to maintain their power over elected governments. The panel's term will be five years, which covers the entire tenure of the next administration as well as a part of the term of the succeeding one.

Kamnoon said that the NSRRC would aim to prevent a repeat of the dangerous political deadlock experienced before the coup in May last year.

He said the commission, which would have special powers under the new charter, could only stay formed longer than five years through a national referendum.

Manit Suksomjit, the second deputy chairman of the CDC, likened the NSRRC to having fire engines that would be needed only in case of an emergency.

"The commission is part of the mechanism to help when the Cabinet cannot function. The panel's duty is stated in the constitution's transitional provisions. Their power may be invoked or not. It depends on the situation," Manit said.

"It is like you have fire trucks ready in case of a fire. If there is no fire, you don't need to use them," he added.

Constitution drafter Paiboon Nititawan explained that there were four steps to activate the use of the NSRRC under the new charter.

If a conflict emerges that threatens national security, and the Cabinet and political institutions such as Parliament are unable to solve it under normal mechanisms, the NSRRC would consult with the Constitutional Court president to come up with measures aimed at restoring peace, he said.

The NSRRC would vote on |the measures proposed, and support from at least two-thirds of its |members is required before a |measure can be applied, he said.

Manoon Siriwan, a member of the National Reform Council, said he was convinced the NSRRC would help ensure that the elected governments would serve honestly for the benefit of the country.

He agreed that this mechanism was not in line with the universal democratic principle but it was necessary to prevent a recurrence of the political crises Thailand had experienced in the past.

Regarding the suspicion that the commission was an attempt by the powers that be to stay in power, Manoon said: "You may interpret this matter that way. You can see both positive and negative sides of it. It depends on how you look at it."