All goes wrong with unelected Thai Senate

The list of 250 unelected senators has been announced in the Royal Gazette. Almost all of them were appointed by the junta. Some of them are also relatives of members of the junta.

Gen. Preecha Chan-o-cha, Prayut's brother and now a senator.

The King signed approval of the senators on 14 May on the recommendation of the NCPO. According to the Constitution, the 250 senators will be able to vote for the next Prime Minister along with 500 members of the House of Representatives during the first five years that the Constitution is in force. It means that 250 of the 376 votes needed for a majority in Parliament to elect the Prime Minister are already in the junta’s pocket.    

The senators come from 3 sources: 194 were appointed by NCPO, selected out of 400 nominated by an anonymous selection committee presided over by Prawit Wongsuwan; 50 were appointed by the NCPO out of 200 representatives of ten professional groups nominated among themselves; and 6 are automatically appointed from from the security forces: the Supreme Commander, the commanders of the three armed forces, the chief of police, and the Permanent Secretary of the Defence Ministry.

Some of them are relatives of people in the current NCPO government. Som Jatusripitak and Air Vice Marshal Chalermchai Krea-ngam are brothers of deputy prime ministers Somkid Jatusripitak and Wissanu Krea-ngam. Gen. Preecha Chan-o-cha and Admiral Sithawat Wongsuwan are brothers of junta leaders Prayut Chan-o-cha and Prawit Wongsuwan.

According to Khaosod, Gen. Preecha Chan-o-cha was absent from meetings of the National Legislative Assembly for 394 days out of 400. He, along with other 7 members of the NLA, were investigated for being absent from more than one-third of NLA’s meetings in a 90-day period, but found not guilty because the committee claimed he was absent for necessary reasons.

15 cabinets resigned just before becoming the senators

Among the 250 senators, 104 are military or police officers, 15 are former members of the junta cabinet who resigned just before being appointed to the senate. According to Way Magazine, 71 were members of the junta’s National Legislative Assembly (NLA), 5 were in the NCPO, and 24 were members of National Reform Steering Assembly.

The Election Commission of Thailand (ECT), which facilitates the appointment of senators, received a budget of 1.3 billion baht for the purpose. While 1.176 billion baht went to the ECT, another 126 million baht went to other assisting agencies. In the election of MPs, the ECT spent 4.095 billion baht despite irregularities and the questionable calculation to allocate party-list MPs.

The Senate will not only play a role in voting for the Prime Minister, but also in the legislative process. Even though it cannot turn down a bill proposed by the House, it has the power to delay a bill by returning it for the House to reconsider. It can also play a role in constitutional amendments since these require 376 votes of the whole parliament and at least one-third of the Senate to pass.