National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA)
The National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) has presented the junta with its long-anticipated recommendations for developing post-coup Thailand. But iLaw, a watchdog NGO, has pointed out that much of the NRSA’s reform package was merely copied and pasted from other sources. Several pages from the 1,342 article long report appear to have been lifted directly from previous reports written by the NRSA’s precursor, the National Reform Council (NRC).
Tools of the state. Political opportunists. Foes of democracy. These are all rather harsh descriptions of NGOs. But for Pinkaew Laungaramsri from Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Social Science, they are truly the roles many NGOs have played in recent Thai political history.
The junta has revealed its blueprint for national reconciliation, combining the late King’s philosophy with the junta’s 20-year national strategy. On 17 July 2017, Lt Gen Kukiat Srinaka of Army Region 1 presided over a public forum on the ‘social contract for unity and reconciliation’, the blueprint for the junta’s national reconciliation plan. The social contract was drafted by a subcommittee under the junta-appointed Committee on National Reform, National Strategy, and Reconciliation, most of whose members are military officers.
The junta’s National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) has given the green light to media reform proposals which will tighten government control and surveillance over online media. On 3 July 2017, the NRSA voted 144-1 in favour of a report compiled by its Social Media Reform Subcommittee. Two members abstained.
Despite opposition from media groups, the junta is proposing a law to punish unlicensed journalists with two years in prison. On 10 April 2017, Maj Gen Pisit Pao-In, chairman of the media subcommittee of the junta’s National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA), announced that under the new Media Bill, media workers who do not possess official licenses could face two years’ imprisonment, or a fine of 60,000 baht, or both.
Citing political ills, the Thai junta has ironically proposed a so-called political culture bill, saying it could foster a democratic political culture. On 7 March 2017, the junta-appointed Committee on National Reform, National Strategy, and Reconciliation announced 42 national reform priorities from Government House. Among these 42 reform goals, a political culture bill was proposed as a solution to Thailand’s political ills.
Two weeks ago, the whip committee of the junta’s National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) temporarily rejected the Protection of Media Rights and Freedom, Ethics and Professional Standards Bill, following strong opposition from the 30 media organisations.
Although the junta’s controversial new media bill has triggered outrage, human rights advocates point out that the Thai media should have been protesting the junta’s censorship regulations long ago. On 16 February 2017, at a seminar “Media (Non)Protection Bill: Freedom under Government Budget”, Suchada Chakpisuth observed that public opposition against the junta’s Media Protection Bill has been weak compared to the junta’s previous proposed laws. Suchada, a senio
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the South East Asia Journalist Unions (SEAJU) join the National Union of Journalist of Thailand (NUJT) in denouncing the draft media regulation bill that will further suppress media in already challenging environment. The IFJ and SEAJU call for the bill to be scrapped immediately.
As a model for its ongoing reconciliation efforts, the Thai junta will follow the amnesty programme for communists implemented during the Cold War. The Thai government has made political reconciliation a policy priority, to resolve chronic unrest between different political movements. Plans include a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to be signed by various political parties and movements in acknowledgement of a promise to build peaceful relationships with each other.