NCPO orders refuse to die

NCPO orders refuse to die

On Wednesday, MPs in the House of Representatives voted down two draft bills in their first reading that were seeking to repeal announcements and orders of the 2014 coup makers.

The first draft proposed by Jon Ungphakorn, director of the Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw), along with the signatures of 12,609 eligible voters, was rejected when only 162 MPs voted in favour while 234 MPs voted against it.

Another bill proposed by Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary-general of the Progressive Movement, was also dismissed as it received 157 votes in favour compared to 229 against.

Our legislators' performance on these bills is distressing to say the least, especially in light of so many signatures from the public. MPs, as elected representatives of the people, should explain why they refused to accept whatever parts they disagreed with, instead of just staying saying silent on the matter and then casting their votes.

Despite the derision these two bills have been subjected to by pro-government and right-wing forces, who view them as a political vendetta against the military government, the changes inherent in both are in the public interest, especially the parts concerning environmental management and natural resource sharing.

It is duty of (good) MPs to view these laws objectively rather than from their own political biases.

From 2014-2018, the since-dissolved National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued 556 orders. Its goal was to control four areas: political activities; public information and media reports; the judicial system, such as using military courts for political cases; and natural resources management and the promotion of industrial development.

Examples of orders related to environmental and industrial policies include: order 64/2557 on forest reclamation, which allowed officials to hastily crack down on forest dwellers; orders 17/2558 and 74/2559, which authorised the state to use public land to develop Special Economic Zones; order 4/2559, which made it legal for a biomass power plant, recycling project and waste-management factory to all be situated dangerously close to a community; and order 47/2560 gave factories in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), a high-tech industrial park on the eastern seaboard, an exemption for land-use compliance.

These orders have no expiry date. New laws are needed to replace or repeal them.

By the time the NCPO disbanded, the coup makers had already repealed many orders including the ban on political activities, and the use of military courts to gag the media. But the orders related to environmental and industrial policies remain active to this day.

At face value, these orders may look relatively harmless. But in reality, they stoke social conflict because orders from the junta are written to override civilian rights and existing laws. For example, villagers in Chachoengsao are facing problems with waste-recycling factories that used order 4/2559 to legitimise their position close to farmland, while villagers in EEC areas are fretting about factories that can be built in green belts rather than the nearby industrial zone -- simply because of the junta's order to accommodate investors.

Unless such orders are overruled, sustainable development will not last long as they trample on basic environmental safeguards and policies on land use policy. As such, it is hard to comprehend how our elected MPs -- who have made public pledges to support sustainable development -- can in good faith reject these recent proposals that would serve that very goal.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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