After reserving six seats in the senate for military and police chiefs, the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) revealed that the junta will get to handpick the senate selection committee members.
Meechai Ruchuphan, President of the CDC, on Thursday, 24 March 2016, told the media that the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) will get to screen candidates for the committee of nine persons who will be tasked with selecting all 250 senators.
The CDC chief, nonetheless, said that NCPO members will not sit in the senate selection committee themselves, adding that the criteria for committee members would include political neutrality and multidisciplinary knowledge.
Earlier this week, meeting the junta’s suggestions halfway, the CDC said that 200 of the 250 senators will be selected by a committee of 8-10 individuals, but retained the plan for another 50 to be handpicked by the same committee from 20 professional groups.
When asked then if the military chiefs will be in the senate as the junta suggested, the CDC stated that the draft allows six senate seats to be held by active government officials – in other words, guaranteeing seats for the chiefs of the military and the police.
The senate in cooperation with the NCPO will possesses a mandate to push for reforms and to safeguard the constitution. But the CDC did not agree with the junta’s suggestion to allow the senate to initiate a no-confidence motion against the government.
The NCPO’s recommendations on the method to select the senate has been criticised by many people, including politicians from both the Pheu Thai and the Democrat Parties, who decried the proposal as a coup d’état in disguise.
Sodsri Satayathum, former member of the Election Commission of Thailand (ETC), pointed out that with all the senators being selected, the future elected government will be crippled.
In an interview with Prachachat Turakij published on Wednesday, Sodsri said that “even after the [future general] election is held, there will be an agency that will be lording it over the government; this is the senate, all of whose 250 members are selected with seats reserved for the military chiefs.”
Last week, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, Defence Minister and deputy junta leader, told the media that the proposal of the NCPO to the CDC to have an all-appointed senate with six seats reserved for military and police leaders is only for a five-year transition period toward ‘full democracy’.
He said then that the plan to have the top military and police brass sitting in the Upper House will, if it is enacted, prevent future coups d’état.