Prawit heads selection of senators

Prawit heads selection of senators

Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon talks to reporters after the cabinet meeting on Tuesday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon talks to reporters after the cabinet meeting on Tuesday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, deputy chief of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), will head the selection committee of senators, who he says will not include active soldiers.

He said NCPO chief Prayut Chan-o-cha had named him chairman of the panel, which would meet soon.

Gen Prawit, who is also deputy prime minister for security, declined to elaborate who else was on the panel but said the 194 senators they would pick would come from all fields, including civilians, journalists and academics.

The senators will not include active military officers or those who are close to retirement, he said, dismissing rumours active soldiers would join Parliament like in the National Legislative Assembly. 

"They [active soldiers] will not be selected. Senators will be picked from general people. How can military officers be senators?" Gen Prawit asked.

Apparently, Gen Prawit did not rule out retired military officers from the choice.

Asked about the criticism of conflicts of interest -- the NCPO picks the senators who would, in turn, pick a prime minister and Gen Prayut is one of the PM candidates -- Gen Prawit did not comment.

On the same day, Gen Prayut refused to answer why he appointed Gen Prawit to head of the committee, saying “Why not?”

He said the senator selection was constitutional and approved as the additional question by 16 million people in the 2016 referendum.

“Isn’t it democratic? Tell me, who could force 16 million people to vote yes?" he said.

According to the official results of the 2016 referendum, 16.8 million people voted to accept the draft constitution and 15.1 million voted yes to the additional question, which allows senators to vote alongside MPs in choosing prime ministers for five years after Parliament convenes.

Critics have argued the referendum was not free and fair -- voters did not know what they would get if they voted no, vote-no campaigners were silenced by lawsuits for breaching the NCPO’s orders and many voters were led to believe if they accepted the charter, an election would be held sooner rather than later. 

Politicians have slammed the rule as unfair in the run-up to the poll, especially after Gen Prayut accepted to be the PM candidate of Palang Pracharath Party and since all 250 senators will be chosen either directly or indirectly by the NCPO headed by Gen Prayut. They claim even though a party wins in all 350 constituencies, it cannot get its candidate to be PM and would need another 26 yes-votes from the senators. 

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