Stop Senate picks secrecy

Stop Senate picks secrecy

In stark contrast to the race for Lower House seats in the March 24 general election, the ongoing process of selecting a majority of senators has fallen under the public radar.

Largely, it looks like a secretive recruitment process for Upper House members who will be granted unprecedented power to join parliamentary votes for a prime minister.

Under the 2017 constitution, sponsored by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), and an organic law, the first batch of 250 senators, who will serve a five-year term following the general election, will be handpicked by the NCPO.

Fifty will be chosen from a shortlist of 200 candidates chosen in an intra-group selection process by various social groups and professions. Six seats will be reserved for the three armed forces leaders, the supreme commander, the defence permanent secretary and the national police chief.

The remaining 194 senators, or a majority, will be chosen by the NCPO from a shortlist of 400 candidates selected by a special committee it has just appointed. Unlike the intra-group selection process late last year which revealed lists of candidates to the public, the process of selecting these senators has taken place behind closed doors.

NCPO chairman and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, also a prime ministerial candidate of the Palang Pracharath Party, has refused to reveal who is on the special committee.

For now, the only name which has been made public is that of its chairman, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon.

Given that the committee is scheduled to submit the shortlist of candidates to the NCPO by this Saturday, there is no need for Gen Prayut to keep the names of the committee members a secret.

In defending his decision to not disclose the names, Gen Prayut urged members of the public to trust his judgement and neutrality. He insisted the committee members are people who love the country and will work with fairness.

But it is his judgement that has gained little trust from those calling for the disclosure of the names. For example, the NCPO's pick of 200 members of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) does not show impartiality because most NLA members are military men, policemen and NCPO supporters. At the same time, the NLA has passed countless laws during the past four years without sufficient public participation. It has acted merely as a rubber stamp for the NCPO.

Given that the first batch of senators will serve for five years, they will have a chance to join a parliamentary vote with the Lower House for two prime ministers because each of them will serve a four-year term. This is a special power, granted by the regime-sponsored constitution, that many see as a condition to help Gen Prayut gain an upper hand in the prime ministerial vote because he can dictate the selection of the senators.

In addition to the names of the committee members, the regime must reveal the names of all 400 shortlisted candidates. Some suspect it intends keeping the list a secret for now.

By keeping it secret, Gen Prayut has made a mockery of the selection process, which many suspect is set up to further his own aims.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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