BANGKOK – Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwon on Friday defended the appointment of ex-permanent secretary for defense Gen. Preecha Chan-o-cha, the younger brother of Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, as a senator, saying the retired officer has experience as a lawmaker and it’s not cronyism.
While the list of 250 senators handpicked by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) was not unveiled to the public, several people have confirmed they accepted Senate posts, including Gen Preecha.
Gen Preecha was among 60 members of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) who resigned from their posts this week ahead of taking up roles as senators. At least 15 cabinet ministers also stepped down for the same reason.
According to the Bangkok Post, Gen. Prawit said that Gen Preecha had served as an NLA member and he would now become a senator. However, he refused to comment on criticism that Gen Preecha’s attendance had been poor as an NLA member.
Gen Preecha was one of seven legislators investigated for poor attendance by an NLA panel in 2017. Under NLA rules, members must attend at least one-third of voting sessions. In 2016, the NLA held a total of 1,264 voting sessions, so the minimum attendance requirement was 421. Gen Preecha’s attendance was just above the minimum, at 428.
All seven legislators were ultimately cleared by the panel because they had submitted the required leave requests, claiming other official business.
Gen Preecha also drew fire for nepotism in 2016 for arranging a job for his son in the army’s civil affairs directorate, with the rank of acting sub-lieutenant. Patipat Chan-o-cha later resigned from the position.
Another son of Gen Preecha was a major shareholder in a construction company that won seven contracts from the 3rd Army Region between December 2014 and April 2016, worth a combined 97 million baht. Gen Preecha denied any conflict of interest.
Gen Prawit confirmed on Friday that the list of senators had already been submitted for royal endorsement.
Meanwhile, Thawee Sodsong, secretary-general of the Prachachart Party, said the appointed senators should not join the MPs in selecting the next prime minister.
He said the senators must act in line with Section 114 of the constitution which requires them to be independent and serve in the best interests of the country.
“The NCPO chose the 250 senators, so it can be said they are dominated by the regime. Moreover, several of them also served as NLA members or cabinet ministers,” he said on Facebook.
“To avoid a conflict of interest, the Senate should not join MPs in choosing the prime minister,” he said.