MP downplays online opposition to ending Isoc

MP downplays online opposition to ending Isoc

Move Forward parliamentarian pushing bill says survey was confusing and open to manipulation

Security officers and explosive ordnance disposal officers inspect a bomb blast site in Rangae district of Narathiwat on Aug 13, 2020. (Photo: Waedao Harai)
Security officers and explosive ordnance disposal officers inspect a bomb blast site in Rangae district of Narathiwat on Aug 13, 2020. (Photo: Waedao Harai)

A Move Forward Party MP has downplayed the results of an online public hearing on a draft bill seeking to dissolve the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), saying it would not be relevant to the House’s deliberation of the proposed law.

Romadon Panjor, who submitted the bill in July, was referring to the findings of the online hearing posted on the parliament website. As of Tuesday, 45,696 people had taken part, with 72.2% disagreeing with the Isoc being closed via new legislation.

Mr Romadon said on Thursday that the result would have no legal binding on the effort to push for passage of the bill due to be debated in the House.

“The House of Representatives is empowered to enact laws, and public opinion will be taken into consideration in the process. [The gathering of public opinion] isn’t the same as a referendum,” he said.

He also said that it was possible that people were mobilised to participate in the survey to manipulate the outcome.

Mr Romadon said some questions were confusing because several respondents rejected the bill while at the same time suggesting that Isoc should be dissolved.

Moreover, participants could vote multiple times, which could make the findings unreliable, he added. 

Earlier, Mr Romadon said that because the House speaker deemed the bill to be financial legislation, the prime minister is authorised under Section 133 of the constitution to approve and then forward it to the House for debate.

The government has given a lukewarm response to the draft bill, with Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin insisting this week that he had no intention to push for Isoc’s closure.

Mr Srettha said in a post on X: “I’m not out to please the military, but I must put people’s interests before others. I’ve said it before — the agency will have to focus on development work, not just security deterrence.” 

The prime minister also said he was open to criticism and was aware that every organisation must adapt to change. However, he said, it does not mean dissolving an agency was the solution. 

Established in 1965, Isoc initially served as a key player in the struggle against communism. In 1969, it was converted into a command overseeing the country’s international security operations.

However, in recent years it has taken on roles that critics say are political in nature, especially under the previous military-dominated government when it was accused of helping to suppress pro-democracy activities.

Isoc has an annual budget estimated at 8 billion baht — bigger than some ministries — and while it can justify some degree of secrecy on national security grounds, its workings are still considered opaque.

Defence Minister Sutin Klungsang said on Thursday that abolishing an agency was easier said than done.

He also said the planned restructuring of the armed forces is still under review but insisted that by 2027, the number of generals is likely to be reduced by 20-30%.

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