Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has used his special powers to remove Somchai Srisutthiyakorn as election commissioner, effectively immediately, citing his inappropriate comments that could confuse the public.
The National Council for Peace and Order No.4/2561 order, published in the Royal Gazette on Tuesday evening, says Mr Somchai gave several interviews to media about the procedures and schedule of the general election. His opinions may confuse the public and obstruct the operation of the Election Commission and the organisation of the polls.
The order also mentioned Mr Somchai might have a conflict of interest when he applied for the top job at the EC.
“He applied to become secretary-general of the Election Commission without resigning from his election commissioner position first. This constitutes a conflict of interest because he becomes a direct stakeholder and would affect the fair selection of the candidate for the position,” the order read.
The order also allows the EC’s acting chairman and commissioners who turn 70 to continue their duties until the new chairman or commissioners take office.
Mr Somchai, an active Facebook user, wrote after the news: “It’s been an honour to reveal the face of the NCPO”.
He told the Bangkok Post his comments were made in the public interest and might not please everyone.
“As for my application for the EC’s top job, I did so because I was qualified. I was well aware the existing commissioners wouldn't choose me because they knew I might act against the wish of those in powers.
“I’m not shocked by the order. For a while, I was trying to leave the job, knowing I was at risk of being sacked by the NCPO. I knew some people found me intolerable but an EC commissioner has the duty to show what’s right or wrong,” he said.
He added he would find other ways to serve the country.
Mr Somchai has been vocal about the Five Rivers -- the legislative and administrative organs appointed by the NCPO -- after the National Legislative Assembly voted to “set zero” on the EC -- removing all existing EC commissioners and selecting new ones.
He slammed the move as unfair since other independent organisations such as the Constitutional Court and the National Anti-Corruption Commission are allowed to continue serving.
Before joining the EC, he was a director and secretary of the Open Forum for Democracy Foundation (PNET), a non-governmental organisation focusing on local networking on democracy and electoral processes.