BANGKOK – Thailand’s military-installed parliament on Thursday passed a bill that allows the ruling junta to continue to impose its policies after it holds elections and officially relinquishes power.
The National Legislative Assembly voted 281-0 in favor of the legislation, which calls for establishment of a national strategy committee to oversee the long-term plans of future governments.
Three years ago military seized power, promoting itself as the kingdom’s guardian against corrupt politicians.
The generals have given themselves sweeping powers to push through reforms — ranging from major rail infrastructure projects to crackdowns on street food vendors and flower sellers.
This national strategy will be legally binding, effectively giving the military oversight of elected governments for the next 20 years.
Former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the military government should have asked for people’s opinions about the bill before making it law. He said it would only complicate the work of future governments.
“It is a pity that the national strategy law sets out principles which give the people little chance to participate, not in line with the spirit of the constitution,” said former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, according to the Bangkok Post newspaper.
The drafting committee will be headed by Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha — who led the 2014 coup — and includes six representatives of the security forces, as well as heads of industry and politicians.
During a five-year “transitional” phase, any future government must report its progress each quarter to a Senate that will be appointed by the junta.
Political researchers say such far-reaching control has been attempted unsuccessfully by previous military regimes in Thailand, but this is the first time the generals have got this far.
The drafting of the 20-year blueprint is expected to take several months.
Government spokesman Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak said in March that reforming Thailand requires a long-term 20-year strategy to address issues such as corruption and the economy because previous governments were unsuccessful in tackling them.
Thailand has been riven by political conflict since 2006, when the army ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in an earlier coup. In its aftermath, supporters and opponents of Thaksin engaged in a sometimes-violent struggle for power. In 2014 the military ousted a government led by Thaksin’s sister, who had also been elected prime minister, after demonstrators staged violent protests against her.
Elections have been delayed each year since the 2014,a vote is unlikely to held until 2018.