No open picks for new Senate
NCPO to establish selection committee
Most of the next batch of senators are not likely to be chosen through an open selection, says Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam.
The 250 senators are divided into three groups. Of the total, 194 senators will be directly picked by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), 50 senators will be chosen from intra-group voting, while the remaining six seats will be occupied by the defence permanent secretary, the supreme commander of the army, the three leaders of the armed forces and the national police chief.
Mr Wissanu said the NCPO will appoint between nine and 12 people to the committee that will oversee the selection of the 194 senators.
However, Mr Wissanu said the appointees are not likely to come from an open selection process as there might be too many applicants, which would make vetting their qualifications difficult.
This is different from the Election Commission-supervised intra-group voting, which has a system in place that allows the public to object to any candidates from professional and/or social groups who they think might not be qualified to be senators.
The intra-group voting will occur at three levels: district level, provincial level and finally national level on Jan 2, said Mr Wissanu.
The selections must be completed at least 15 days before the general election takes place and the names of those chosen will be submitted to the NCPO for appointment.
Mr Wissanu said the EC has made it clear it wants the senate selection to be completed as soon as possible as it needs plenty of time to prepare for the general election.
The senator selection committee is expected to finish choosing the 194 appointees on Feb 9.
A source in the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) said the selection committee is likely to approach potential candidates and invite them to be senators. Potential appointees include the army's top brass, political post-holders and businessmen who have close ties to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, his deputy Prawit Wongsuwan, army chief Apirat Kongsompong and NLA president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai.
The deputy premier declined to comment on claims that certain lawmakers are lobbying for Senate posts.
Mr Wissanu warned that being a senator is "no walk in the park" and the senators must also declare their assets and liabilities for examination. They are barred from assuming positions on the board of state agencies and from taking public office for two years after quitting the Senate.
Nat Laoseesawakul, the EC deputy secretary-general, said Sunday that more than 7,000 people applied for the intra-group voting, citing an unofficial figure.
However, the number falls way short of the official target of at least 90,000 applicants, for reasons that he declined to elaborate.