Parties feel straitjacketed by new laws

Parties feel straitjacketed by new laws

Regime 'hampering' their development

Junta chief Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has so tightly controlled future policy and reform that political parties are hard-pressed to find programmes they can campaign on.
Junta chief Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has so tightly controlled future policy and reform that political parties are hard-pressed to find programmes they can campaign on.

Political parties cried foul Tuesday over some regime-sponsored laws including a 20-year national strategy, saying the rules would prevent them from initiating policy platforms or reformist agendas.

The criticism was voiced at a seminar on political parties and the path to reform hosted by King Prajadhipok's Institute (KPI) to mark its 20th anniversary.

Key political figures showed up to share their views on the topic and offer glimpses of what their parties are planning for the future.

Addressing the seminar, key Pheu Thai Party member Chaturon Chaisang slammed the regime's 20-year national strategy and reform plans, saying the party would review them and suggest any necessary changes.

He said the long-term strategic and reform blueprints were forcing the hands of political parties, which were unlikely to bring about the much-desired national reforms.

"The country is in need of reform in several areas, especially democratic development, distribution of wealth, education. It isn't easy. We will tackle a strategic plan that controls our thoughts for 20 years," he said.

It is believed the 20-year strategy and reform plans will be a thorn in the side of future governments, which will be required to comply with them.

The plans relate to economic and social development, national security and education, budget allocation and the rules governing the practices of all ministries, Mr Chaturon said.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva expressed concern political parties would be restricted by the laws unless these concerns are addressed.

"The laws on political parties are forcing [them] to be 'ready-made political parties', so it is an obstacle to their evolution," he said.

He said it was high time to reconsider how to write laws designed to govern political parties while allowing them to still develop fully.

He said political parties would need to do more to promote wider participation from their members, be it the selection of party executives and election candidates or the formulation of policy platforms.

Mr Abhisit said his party has already initiated a process to encourage more input from its members in forming policies, and would push ahead when the political ban is lifted.

Sora-at Klinprathum, chief adviser of the Bhumjaithai Party, said parties need more flexibility to operate.

"I haven't seen the details of the 20-year strategic plan but it's hard for any party to follow them. In democracy we should have flexibility," he said.

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the newly registered Future Forward Party, said the party would support wider participation in various areas including the primaries.

He said the party would prevent the regime from prolonging its stay in power. It would also abolish the 2017 constitution and reform the military while ending mandatory conscription, he added.

Paiboon Nititawan, the designated leader of the newly registered Prachachon Patiroob (Reform People Party), said he intended to use the new political outfit to show how a party can promote democracy from within.

"We need to create a political party to serve as an instrument of the people, not use the people as a tool to gain power. It must start from us," he said.

Borwornsak Uwanno, former secretary-general of the KPI, said changes to the law are a crucial prerequisite to national reform.

He said there the laws should not be over strict. Existing laws should be assessed and revised to reflect the public interest, he added.

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