PM defends changes to security law

PM defends changes to security law

Move was to 'help Isoc with natural disasters'

The recent amendment to the security law governing the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) was to give the agency a legal tool to help it effectively mitigate natural disaster threats, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha insisted yesterday.

Gen Prayut stressed the change to the law, which took effect last month, was not politically motivated as suggested by critics but was introduced to facilitate Isoc operations in the area of natural disaster mitigation.

Gen Prayut invoked his Section 44 powers last month to amend internal security legislation to set up the Internal Security Administration Committee to help Isoc deal with domestic threats.

Similar structures were also set up at the provincial and regional levels -- a move seen by critics as a regime attempt to use Isoc more extensively to serve the military ahead of a general election.

Gen Prayut said normally Isoc operates in the area natural disaster mitigation but there was no law governing it. In addition to man-made risks, the latest amendment enables the agency to more effectively handle natural disasters such floods or drought.

The prime minister also pointed out that Isoc under the supervision of the government, not the armed forces, as well as the changes are expected to help future governments manage threats better.

Isoc is chaired by the prime minister and the agency does not have the power to "instruct" other agencies, he said. Isoc's main role is to coordinate efforts among concerned parties and follow up on those efforts.

"It's not for political purposes. Don't politicise everything," he said after laying down 2018 policy guidelines for Isoc and concerned agencies at Government House.

Following the amendment, security expert Surachart Bamrungsuk said the regime's move indicated an expansion of military power while noting that in the 2006 and 2014 coups, Isoc was used extensively to serve the army's political purposes.

Gen Prayut yesterday also rejected speculation that the National Council for Peace and Order's (NCPO) work would be transferred to Isoc which also takes charge of peacekeeping and national reconciliation building, saying they are not related.

"Isoc is a normal government agency but the NCPO isn't. When there is an elected government, there will be no NCPO," he said.

According to Gen Prayut, Isoc scored a number of achievements in 2017, especially in addressing violent unrest in the deep South but more effort was needed to restore peace in the region.

He said he expects Isoc to intensify its coordination efforts following the changes to the security law.

Gen Prayut also called on Isoc to operate in line with the 2017-2021 national security policy and planning and the 2018-2020 national security plan.

He said Isoc operations should comply with the "Pracharath" initiative and form a network which will be a key mechanism in promoting wider public participation in national development.

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