Move Forward seeks to rein in military 'super board'
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Move Forward seeks to rein in military 'super board'

The Move Forward Party (MFP) is urging the government to show its commitment to reforming the armed forces by pushing for changes to the so-called defence "super board".

The seven-member board, which consists of five leaders of the armed forces' and the two top defence officials in the government, has the authority to decide on the transfer and/or promotion of generals in the annual reshuffle of military posts, which observers say enables the military to interfere in politics by staging coups.

Tanadej Pengsuk, a MFP MP for Bangkok and deputy chairman of the House committee on military affairs, said the MFP has proposed a bill which seeks to limit the super board's "absolute" power in approving promotions and reshuffles, a move which he said has come under fire from some quarters.

"The military says politicians should not meddle with the armed forces' internal affairs, but each branch of the armed forces are actually a national defence unit equivalent to any other government agencies," he said.

"[As such,] why should the armed forces be untouchable?"

"What authority does the defence minister possess if the super board is there [above the minister] when it comes to reviewing and approving a military reshuffle?” said Mr Tanadej.

Separately, Defence Minister Sutin Klungsang said the government has proposed several bills which are aimed to facilitate the reform of the armed forces.

One of the bills seeks to grant the prime minister the authority to suspend from duty any military officials suspected of plotting a coup.

When asked why the bill only seeks to enable the PM to suspend an officer from duty, as opposed to dismissing the officer altogether, Mr Sutin said authority lies with His Majesty the King, as generals are appointed by the monarch. 

As for the Defence Council, which has been heavily criticised for having too much power, Mr Sutin said another one of the bills is looking to add two members to the council, bringing the number of council members to five. 

In response to the opposition’s observation that two new members won't be enough to balance out the power of the armed forces' top brass, Mr Sutin said critics of the move believe even two seats are too much.

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