NLA to begin probe into absences

NLA to begin probe into absences

The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) will on Friday begin a three-month probe into the absences from votes of seven of its members, including the brother of the prime minister.

NLA vice-president Peerasak Porchit said on Monday their memberships would be terminated if they were found to have missed the minimum attendance required by the constitution.

He said the investigation comprised a look into basic facts (30 days) and an ethical probe (60 days). If they are also found to have violated the ethics code, their cases will be forwarded to ombudsmen.

The NLA's panel would finish checking on Friday their leave of absence letters and the petition for the investigation filed by Srisuwan Chanya, secretary general of the Thai Constitution Protection Organisation, he added.

Both the accused and the petitioner will be asked to testify before the panel, he said.

"The seven NLA members are government officials with a lot of responsibilities. Some who already retired also helped the NLA by going on trips to the provinces under the NLA Meets the People project," he said.

iLaw reported on Feb 5 seven NLA members missed votes to the point that their memberships could be terminated.

It gathered the data from the public records of NLA voting results, claiming NLA officials had refused to give it the meeting attendance records. Each NLA meeting may consist of one or more votes or no vote at all.

The charter and the NLA regulations require members to attend at least one-third of the voting meetings within a 90-day period in order to remain a member unless they have submitted leave of absence letters to the NLA president beforehand.

iLaw found seven members might have failed to meet the minimum requirement in two periods -- Jan 1 to March 31, 2016 and April 1 to June 29, 2016 (see chart).

They are: former permanent secretary for defence Preecha Chan-o-cha, a younger brother of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha; Adm Pallop Tamisanon, a former navy chief-of-staff; Somsak Chotrattanasiri, the director of the Bureau of the Budget; Distat Hotrakitya, the secretary-general of the Office of the Council of State; Supant Mongkolsuthree, honorary chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries; ACM Jom Rungsawang, the air force chief; and, Adm Na Areenich, the navy chief. 

NLA members do not receive salaries. Instead, each one is paid a position allowance of 71,230 baht and an extra allowance of 42,330 a month, totalling 113,560 baht. If he is on any NLA committees, he receives 1,500 baht for each meeting he attends.

If a member fails to attend half of the meetings scheduled each month, he will not receive the extra allowance for that month unless he is on a parliamentary trip approved by the NLA president. 

Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam said two years ago that a state official may not receive salaries from more than one source but may accept unlimited position allowances and other compensation so long as the payments are not called a salary.

Each NLA member can also hire up to three experts and assistants, who are each paid 15,000 to 24,000 baht a month.

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