Ombudsman selection halted to 'prevent serious impact'

Ombudsman selection halted to 'prevent serious impact'

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam "explains" why the process to select a new chief ombudsman was halted. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's order on Wednesday halting the selection of a new ombudsman was issued to prevent a "serious untoward incident", Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said on Thursday.

Gen Prayut's order, issued as head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) under Section 44 of the interim constitution, suspended the selection of ombudsmen, election commissioners, Constitutional Court judges, members of the National Anti-Corruption Commission, and national human rights commissioners, pending the promulgation of a new charter.

It also brought to an immediate halt the process to select a new chief ombudsman.

Asked to explain, Mr Wissanu said the order for the time being applied only to the ongoing selection of the new ombudsman, and was aimed at preventing serious repercussions.

Asked why the ombudsman's selection process could have such a serious impact, Mr Wissanu said, "If you were at the parliament, you would know. It was a serious issue that should not have happened."

Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, chairman of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), told assemblymen at the parliament on Thursday that Gen Prayut's order meant the partially complete selection of Rewat Visarutvej as new ombudsman would not proceed.

Earlier, the NLA formed a committee to examine Dr Rewat's suitability after a selection committee re-nominated him, despite the government appointed NLA not approving his appointment in early June.

Dr Rewat is a former chief of the Medical Services Department and former adviser to the Office of the Ombudsman. The selection process was to fill the post left vacant by the departure of Siracha Vongsarayankura, former chief ombudsman, on April 5.

A source earlier said several NLA members questioned Dr Rewat’s links with red-shirt leader Nattawut Saikuar. Dr Rewat served as an adviser to Mr Nattawut when he was deputy commerce minister in the Yingluck Shinawatra government.

NLA member Kittisak Ratanawaraha said Gen Prayut's order was in response to the problematic selection of the new ombudsman.

He said many NLA members were opposed to the re-nomination of Dr Rewat while others were insisting on having him appointed.

In a recent vote, the NLA was evenly divided on whether to appoint him with 66 members for and 66 against. But 24 assemblymen abstained. That meant the NLA rejected him, Mr Kittisak said. 

There were 21 applicants for the post in the new selection round, but the selection committee still nominated the same person, he said.

NLA member Somjet Boonthanom said if this selection proceeded, it could be seen as the NLA failing its duty and people would lose faith in it as well as the NCPO.

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