BANGKOK – Thailand’s Junta Appointed Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha is defended the selection of 250 senators to be picked by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), saying they shouldn’t be judged even before they start to work.
“Although the senators will be “appointed by me“, will you look down on all 250 of them? Don’t they have brains? Don’t they love the country? Everyone loves the nation. The love of the country and democracy shouldn’t be monopolized only by political parties and politicians.
That’s all I ask,” he said.
During the five years after the new parliament convenes, senators vote alongside MPs in picking prime ministers. This is the result of the additional question people were asked when they voted on the referendum on the charter in August 2016.
Some 15.1 million voted to accept the question compared 16.8 million yes-votes on the charter.
The Bangkok Port reports that critics argue the process was not free and fair since vote-no campaigners were silenced by lawsuits for breaching the NCPO’s orders and many voters were led to believe if they accepted the charter, an election would be held sooner rather than later.
Politicians have slammed the rule as unfair in the run-up to the poll, especially after Gen Prayut accepted to be the PM candidate of the Palang Pracharath Party and since all 250 senators will be chosen either directly or indirectly by the NCPO headed by Gen Prayut.
They claim even though a party wins in all 350 constituencies, it cannot get its candidate to be PM and would need another 26 yes-votes from the senators. (see chart)
Commenting on the selection process of these senators, Gen Prayut on Friday said the NCPO was in the stage of preparing a list of 12 people whom it would appoint to a screening panel, which will in turn select 400 senator candidates to be shortlisted by the NCPO to 194.
“They are from different sources and the next step is to send them invitations and wait for their confirmations.
“Several people don’t want to enter politics for various reasons. For example, those who currently sit on some boards may have to give up the seats,” he said.
Asked how the NCPO could prevent criticism about cronyism, Gen Prayut said he was simply performing his duties.
“Please look back on what I’ve done and have some faith in me. I can’t avoid criticism in any case. Whoever we pick deserves some credit — they shouldn’t be criticized before they even start to work. If that happens, no good people would want to work for the country.”
He also complained it was not easy to find people willing to work for the government over the past 4-5 years because they will lose numerous rights as required by law for the sake of transparency.
Asked what he thought about senators being able to vote on a PM, Gen Prayut dodged the question.
“They can only do so when parties cannot agree on any PM. It’s a safeguard to prevent a deadlock,” he said, apparently referring to the rule that would apply in 2024 or five years after the upcoming election, not in the March 24 poll.