Govt to mull reform decree in cabinet talk

Govt to mull reform decree in cabinet talk

Pongthep says all agree on need for change

The caretaker government will consider issuing a royal decree establishing a reform assembly at the cabinet meeting tomorrow, caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana says.

Mr Pongthep said yesterday everyone agrees on the need for reforms.

On Monday, representatives of seven business organisations called on the government to carry out reform immediately by issuing an executive decree establishing a reform organisation.

Mr Pongthep admitted the government-initiated reform forum headed by PM's Office permanent secretary Tongthong Chandransu was not working according to plan.

Academics, the military and the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship participated in Mr Tongthong's forums last week, but the protest group People's Democratic Reform Committee and the Democrat Party boycotted it.

Mr Pongthep said the government wants to set up a reform organisation ahead of the election on Feb 2.

He said the caretaker government is exploring possibilities, including issuing an executive or royal decree to create a reform organisation.

The caretaker government will have to make sure that issuing a law creating a reform organisation will not be binding on the next government, or it will have to seek endorsement from the Election Commission before it can proceed.

The 1974 National Assembly, set up after the Oct 14, 1973, uprising to draft a new charter, is one possible model, Mr Pongthep said.

The assembly included professional groups. It was dubbed the horse-racing club assembly because 2,347 people were nominated in the first selection round.

The only place which could accommodate a group so big to vote on the final 299 assembly members was the Royal Turf Club at Nang Loeng.

"Our main objective now is to move forward with a reform agenda before the election," Mr Pongthep said.

"This means the new government after the election will have a clear reform mission.

"It should take about a year to implement it and then would dissolve the House and call for an election under new rules."

The Pheu Thai Party will promote reform during its election campaign.

Meanwhile, the Thailand Development Research Institute has proposed that a reform committee consisting of no more than 30 people be set up to kick start the reform process before the election.

President Somkiat Tangkitvanich said he agreed with the call by seven business groups for the government to issue a law to establish a reform organisation immediately.

"A reform process must start before an election. Once it attains state power, a government will never want to make changes," Mr Somkiat said.

Instead of a large-scale reform assembly, Mr Somkiat proposed a small, 30-member reform committee be set up.

The committee should have one third of its members proposed by the government, another one third by the anti-government protest group and the Democrat Party, while the rest would comprise members of professional groups that are acceptable by both sides.

Mr Somkiat said the reform committee should focus on only a few issues pertaining to the conflicts, such as rules on how to attain state power, checks-and-balance mechanisms, corruption monitoring, populist policies and financial discipline.

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