NLA wants probes ended before polls

NLA wants probes ended before polls

Graft cases set to be ramped up

Authorities have been urged to finish probes into local officials who have been suspended over allegations of graft before planned local elections are held.

The alleged misconduct involving "a large number of officials" must be cleared out before the elections so that those who prove their innocence can take part, deputy National Legislative Assembly (NLA) chairman Phirasak Phochit suggested on Saturday.

Agencies including the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PSACC) are being encouraged to step up their investigations.

Mr Phirasak's suggestion was raised after Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said on Friday that a meeting with the Local Administrative Department will be held this week to discuss a new bill governing local elections, which have been banned during the military regime.

The government has to make sure arrangements for the polls to come under the 2017 charter and it also needs to clarify whether those suspended officials committed wrongdoings, Mr Phirasak said.

NLA representatives who earlier met residents upcountry found they support local elections because they are familiar with "casting votes for administrators in their own areas".

However, since 2015, a number of state officials, including those working for provincial administration organisations (PAOs) and tambon administration organisations (TAOs), have been suspended or transferred to inactive posts after the government launched a serious crackdown on corruption in state agencies.

The actions were done swiftly as Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha issued orders under Section 44 of the interim charter, which grants him sweeping power in administrative, legislative and legal affairs of government.

In one order, issued in June 2015, 70 state officials including senior civil servants saw themselves purged from their jobs. They included seven PAO heads, 17 elected TAO officials and 18 mayors or municipal council members.

The government's plan to hold local elections has come as Gen Prayut braved criticism to ask people six debatable questions. The prime minister has since insisted he does not have a personal political agenda.

Critics believe the questions were aimed at testing the water before general elections, which are expected to be held in November next year.

The questions are: Are new political parties and new politicians needed and will old political politicians comply with national the reforms and strategy? Is it the NCPO's right to support a political party? Do people see a better future after the government's work over the past three years? Is it appropriate to compare the current government with previously elected governments? Did previous government show efficiency and good governance for long-term development? And finally, why have politicians discredited the government on an unusually large scale during this time?

Permanent secretary for interior Chatchai Phromloet on Saturday urged provincial governors countrywide to encourage people to air their views on questionnaires from tomorrow between 8.30am and 4.30pm on weekdays.

Every province must report their answers every 10 days and the number of respondents every evening to the Interior Ministry, according to Mr Chatchai.

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