Regime's 5-year plan raising suspicions
Just five years. That is the time required by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to stay in power for the so-called transition period to fulfill its "Big Brother" role after the election, making sure the new elected government will not stray from the reform path crafted by the junta.
That is not the junta's only demand -- sorry, proposal -- sent to Meechai Ruchupan's Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) as part of a 16-point joint proposal from the government and the NCPO. It wants an entire non-elected Senate with a tenure of five years, and probably with 200 members, to counter-balance the elected House of Representatives.
The appointed Senate will be as powerful as the House -- which means the chamber can choose the next prime minister too.
The non-elected Senate idea is the initiative of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon who is reputed to be the real "Big Brother" of the moment. The general envisages some or all of the members of the NCPO will sit in the Senate so they can join the debates or observe how the MPs and senators behave in parliament.
But the demand for a non-elected Senate appears to have made Mr Meechai uncomfortable, and in the past week he has declined to comment on the matter when asked by reporters on whether to accept it or not.
He merely says he wants the concept to be put in writing -- and not just be verbalised by Gen Prawit -- so he can raise it for consideration in the CDC.
Why five years, and not four years, for the NCPO to stay around under a different name and for the duration of the Senate? The government's tenure in office is just four years.
That extra one year means the NCPO members and the appointed senators will end up having a pivotal role in the formation of a new government. And it means the 20-year strategic plan currently being crafted by the national strategic panel led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will be carried on.
So, we must wait and see whether Mr Meechai will bow to the demands of the junta by incorporating the non-elected, five-year Senate in the provisional chapter of the charter draft.
Meanwhile, watch to see how the police handle a charge of violation of the Computer Crime Act against Adm Phajun Tamprateep, a former close aide of Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda and a member of the National Reform Steering Assembly.
The police action stemmed from the admiral's criticism in the social media that an unnamed (five-star) general was involved in the "selling" of police positions. Many eyebrows have been raised over the legitimacy of the police action.
Many supporters have turned out to give moral backing to the embattled admiral, prompting Prime Minister Prayut to call on the police to rethink the case. Gen Prawit, too, has commented, claiming he had no conflict with the admiral.
Worms will crawl out of Pandora's box if the police persist with the case against the admiral who appears unfazed and determined to "spill the beans". The police chief, Pol Gen Chakthip Chaichinda, may find himself in hot water. And the five-star general may find his political future in jeopardy.
Is the five-year transition period too short or too long? That depends on how successful the junta is in delivering on its promises to the people -- in bettering the livelihood of the majority and making them happy.
As for corruption, it is not the main issue for most people who don't expect the problem to be wiped out overnight. It will be just fine if the problem can be mitigated and the junta proves it is free of this scourge. In which case, the people may find five years to be a bit short.
But if the junta fails to make good, or gets itself tarnished by irregularities, the people may feel that even one more day is too long.
For the time being, negative feelings toward the junta are emerging among its supporters, which in the long-run will badly affect the junta.
Two cases in point are the use of Section 44 of the interim charter to fast-track development projects in new economic zones and to exempt mega-infrastructure projects implemented by the private sector from environmental impact assessment studies. These two decisions are deemed beneficial to the business sector with little regard to the environment and the people.
The use of the draconian S44 in these matters has created an uneasy feeling with some leading civic groups, which otherwise had rendered tacit support to the junta.
With all this in mind, the proposed five-year transition period will be challenged. Sooner rather than later, the junta will realise it should stick to the original roadmap and return to the people the right to have a say in their own future.
Veera Prateepchaikul is a former editor, Bangkok Post.
Former Bangkok Post Editor, political commentator and a regular columnist at Post Publishing.