Isoc a proxy for army rule
Once a new cabinet is sworn in, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) should be dissolved as it earlier planned. The country has had enough of having a military regime in charge of civil affairs.
But the military-dominated Internal Security Operations Command's (Isoc) announcement last week that it would take over certain functions of the NCPO upon the latter's "dissolution" is testament to the fact the regime has found its surrogate.
Of course, Isoc will not be as powerful as the NCPO, but it will maintain the control of security, social and political affairs that the regime has enjoyed over the past five years. This bodes ill for the country's transition into civil rule. Isoc's role in civil issues should be minimised, not enhanced.
For one thing, Isoc will be directed by the prime minister, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is also the NCPO leader. Under Gen Prayut's rule, Isoc's power and influence in the socio-political sphere have never been greater.
Even though Isoc was set up to counter the communist insurgency from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, it also engaged in social and political movements. After the Black May incident in 1992, its role became less prominent.
It received a big boost from the 2006 coup-installed government of Gen Surayud Chulanont which pushed for a new law, the Internal Security Act 2008. The Act granted Isoc permanent status as a state organisation largely controlled by military personnel and reporting the Office of the Prime Minister.
The Act also empowered Isoc to propose "security policies" to the government and requires cooperation and compliance from various state agencies. Since then, Isoc has engaged in tackling social and political issues such as the illicit drug trade, environmental protection and human trafficking.
Since the 2014 coup, Gen Prayut too has used Isoc as a tool to handle not just "security matters" but also social and political issues. With its mobilisation of support from government agencies and individuals across the country, Isoc's personnel have intimidated red-shirt supporters, kept an eye on campaigning ahead of the 2016 constitutional referendum and evicted forest dwellers as part of the NCPO's forest reclamation policy, among many other things.
In 2017, Gen Prayut issued NCPO Order No.51/2017 which enhanced Isoc's structure and role. The key element was the incorporation of local public prosecution offices into Isoc's fold, each led by the regional army commander.
This restructuring made the justice system part of Isoc for the first time.
The NCPO Order also empowered Isoc's provincial arms to summon individuals to provide "information". Critics point out that this task should be a civil affair handled by the police.
The same goes for a number of the NCPO's functions, such as overseeing social order, which should have been handed over to the police and various ministries.
But Isoc's taking over of the NCPO's operations means these tasks will remain led by the military.
In fact, this NCPO Order should be terminated upon the dissolution of the NCPO, to disengage the justice system from Isoc and return civil works to the police and other state agencies.
By transferring the NCPO's remit to Isoc, rather than cancelling the earlier order, Thailand's civil affairs will remain in the shadow of the regime and its military-led operations.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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