Assembly passes national strategy bill
Critics slam law for sidelining public role
The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) endorsed the government-sponsored national strategy bill Thursday, with the prime minister taking the helm of a national strategy commission.
Law-makers voted 218-0 to pass the bill with three abstentions. The bill is designed to support the government's 20-year national development blueprint.
The bill allows the ruling junta to continue to impose its policies after it holds elections and officially relinquishes power.
The 29-section law stipulates the national strategy commission be set up and chaired by the prime minister.
The three vice-chairmen will be: The Senate and House speakers and a deputy prime minister or minister assigned by the premier.
The commissioners will be the defence permanent secretary; the supreme commander, chiefs of the army, navy, air force and police; secretary-general of the National Security Council; chairmen of the National Economic and Social Development Board, the National Farmers Council, the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Thai Industries, the Tourism Council of Thailand and the Thai Bankers' Association.
Up to 17 professionals from various fields may be appointed by the cabinet as a panel of experts.
The commission is tasked with drawing up national strategy to be proposed to the cabinet, giving opinions to parliament, the cabinet or state agencies on issues involving the implementation of the national strategy, and supervising national reform to ensure its compliance with the national strategy.
In drafting the national strategy, the commission will set up one or more drafting committees in different fields.
The drafting committee must finish the preliminary draft within 120 days. The national strategy commission will then review and submit it to the cabinet within 30 days.
After that, the cabinet has 30 days to send the draft to the NLA, which has 30 days to enact it. Once done, the prime minister will submit the law for royal endorsement within 10 days.
But Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva criticised the law, saying it allows the public little say in designing the national strategy.
This runs counter to the spirit of the new constitution, which is intended to give the public a greater role in law-making, he said.
"It is a pity that the national strategy law sets out principles which give the people little chance to participate, not in line with the spirit of the constitution," the former prime minister said.
Mr Abhisit also said the national strategy will impose more burdens on future governments, which will have to comply with the new law.
Critics and political parties said it is unfair that the coup-installed government is making plans to direct future elected governments, crippling their ability to run the country for the next 20 years.
Also on Thursday, the NLA also voted 216-0 with four abstentions to pass the bill on plans and procedures for national reform, which will end the life of the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA).
Once the bill is published in the Royal Gazette, the assembly will be replaced by the national reform committees to work in 11 areas. Each committee comprises up to 13 members with a five-year tenure.
The committees must produce a plan in their respective area of reform, which is also in line with the national strategy.
The 11 areas of national reform are: politics, public administration, law, justice system, education, economy, national resources and environment, public health, mass media and information technology and social issues and other areas.