The Senate yesterday passed in the first reading two bills aimed at combating money laundering and terrorism amid reservations from senators and a cautious welcome from the business sector.
Khamnoon: Economy held hostage
The Anti-money Laundering Bill passed with 117 votes and the Bill on the Prevention and Suppression of Financial Support for Terrorism with 118 votes.
There were 118 MPs attending the session.
A committee will be set up in seven days to scrutinise the bills.
The gist of the two pieces of legislation is that the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) submit to the courts, through prosecutors, for consideration a list of people suspected of having been involved in some way in terrorism or to have provided financial support for terrorism.
If the court decides there is sufficient evidence to back the belief that a person has been involved in terrorism, or provided financial support for terrorism or acted under orders from terrorists, it is to immediately order the suspension of the suspect's financial transactions.
Khamnoon Sithisamarn, an appointed senator, said the two bills, which have been scrutinised and passed by the House of Representatives, were drafted at the suggestion of an organisation outside the country.
The senator was referring to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global body which sets standards for laws against money laundering and for combating the financing of terrorism.
The FATF advised Thailand to quickly pass the bills so as to be removed from its watchlist. On June 22, the FATF said Thailand had not made sufficient progress in fighting money laundering.
Mr Khamnoon said the organisation had in effect violated the rights and freedom of the public and might be in violation of the constitution, particularly a provision in one of the bills which requires the cabinet to publish a list of terrorists supplied by the United Nations.
The cabinet was duty-bound to follow the UN instruction without making a decision of its own, he said.
This was a form of interference in the internal affairs of Thailand, the senator argued. "The deliberation of the two bills has been limited, with conditions on timing and content. The economy of Thailand has been held hostage.
"Legal experts say a money-laundering law is regarded as a form of high-level political reform if the country has good governance, but in Thailand's case this is questionable," Mr Khamnoon said.
Meanwhile, Tanit Sorat, vice-chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), said the business sector heaved a sigh of relief after the Senate passed the anti-money laundering bill.
However, he said one concern remains and that is whether the law will be published in the Royal Gazette and come into force in time for the FATF's review early next year.
Earlier the FTI expressed worries that the law will not be ready for the next review, which could result in the country being downgraded further from its current position on the "grey list".
"I discussed the matter with the Thai Bankers' Association and we agreed that this [anti money-laundering] bill is fine and hopefully it will take effect in time for the next FATF review in January or February," Mr Tanit said.
He said lawmakers should work to shorten the period of of time it takes to get bills published in the Gazette.
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Writer: Mongkol Bangprapa & Nareerat Wiriyapong