Thailand’s Anti-graft commission says it has no power by law to disclose records of assets owned by the Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha or Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam under the new NACC law.
A question has been put to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) as to why it has not made the assets and liabilities declared to it by Gen Prayut and Mr Wissanu public.
Responding at a press briefing to mark the third anniversary of the revised law on Monday, commission chairman Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit explained the revised NACC Act has barred the commission from making public details of the assets of Gen Prayut and Mr Wissanu. Evermore the assets of 100 other political post holders.
The act was revised by the now-defunct National Legislative Assembly during the National Council for Peace and Order’s tenure, has been in effect since 2018. The NLA was run by Gen Prayut and generals after the 2014 military coup.
Gen Prayut’s assets exempt from law
The revision essentially allows those serving in the cabinet prior to the 2019 general election, who went on to be appointed in the same cabinet posts after the election, to be exempt from declaring their assets and liabilities to the NACC, post-election.
This is because those ministers had already made their declarations and thus submission of the asset records post-election would have been unnecessary, according to the act’s creator.
However, Gen Prayut and Mr Wissanu volunteered to provide details of their assets and liabilities post-election, even though they did not have to do so under the new law.
Pol Gen Watcharapol said the revised NACC law does not authorise public divulgence of the assets of back-to-back ministers and a prime minister until after they have left office.
Only new ministers who joined the post-election cabinet, such as Education Minister Treenuch Thienthong, needed to file a post-election assets record.
Information is off-limits
In the case of Gen Prayut and Mr Wissanu, their non-mandatory asset listing submitted to the NACC was for record-keeping purposes. The information is off-limits to the general public, although there have been efforts by critics to have the premier’s and Mr Wissanu’s assets disclosed by invoking the Official Information Act (OIA).
The NACC maintained the OIA was irrelevant as disclosure of assets held by public office holders is governed by the NACC law.
“All we are authorised to do is look after the records, not make them public. If we do that, we will be criminally liable for this action,” Pol Gen Watcharapol said.
The NACC added even it may not run a check of the asset information designated for record-keeping until the ministers who own the assets have vacated office.
Source: Bangkok Post