Prayuth opts to hold reins

Prayuth opts to hold reins

Junta tears up charter, eyes big role for Senate

National Peace and Order Maintaining Council (NPOMC) chief Prayuth Chan-ocha is expected to remain in the role of prime minister for the immediate future, a source close to the coup leader says.

The National Peace and Order Maintaining Council led by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha meets ministerial permanent secretaries, provincial governors, representatives of independent organisations and state enterprise agencies at the Army Club on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road. Gen Prayuth, centre, lays down guidelines on how to act under the current circumstances. KOSOL NAKACHOL

It comes as the junta officially abrogated the 2007 constitution yesterday morning.

The source said Gen Prayuth wanted the Senate to appoint an interim premier given that the Upper House was not dissolved following the coup on Thursday afternoon.

The source said the Senate sees Gen Prayuth as a candidate for interim premier, but the army chief does not want the job. It is expected he will use the structure of the NPOMC to run the country until a new general election is called.

The NPOMC's working structure means that Gen Prayuth and other armed forces leaders will remain in power even after their mandatory retirement date. The council will remain in place until reform of political, economic and social institutions is completed and a fresh general election is held.

Gen Prayuth and other armed forces leaders are due to retire in September.

"Everything in the country must be all right before an election is held," Gen Prayuth was quoted as saying.

The army chief and members of the junta yesterday met top government officials, provincial governors and representatives from several sectors who were ordered to report to the NPOMC.

"When you are in power, you must not think of yourself but look ahead. The military can always be relied upon," Gen Prayuth told them.

He has also promised to seek funds to pay overdue money owed to farmers under the rice-pledging scheme within 20 days.

"I'll try to find money and pay farmers. The money will go to the farmers first while the G2G deals will be suspended," Gen Prayuth said, referring to government-to-government rice sale agreements.

The army chief also said he had drafted a letter informing His Majesty the King of the coup and submitted it to the King's Principal Private Secretary. He said this meant there was no need to seek an audience with His Majesty.

Late on Thursday night, the NPOMC issued its 11th post-coup announcement, cancelling the fifth announcement which had suspended the constitution temporarily.

The 11th announcement states that the constitution, except Chapter 2 which relates to the monarchy, is abrogated. It maintained the initial declaration that the caretaker cabinet vacates office while the Senate, courts and independent organisations will continue to function.

The decision to keep the Senate, courts and independent agencies intact is unprecedented in the history of the country's numerous military coups. 

Coup-makers in the past have preferred the establishment of a national legislative assembly to replace the parliament and have usually set up a committee to seize assets from politicians removed from power and level charges against them.

Gen Prayuth and his council are expected to issue announcements soon to outline the scope of the Senate's role and authority.

They are also expected to clarify the authority of the Constitutional Court now that the charter, which included provisions relating to the court, has been abrogated.

The Senate is likely to act as the only national legislative body to draft and pass legislative items for the transitional period until a new election is called and a new House of Representatives sworn in.

Allowing these existing organisations to handle cases such as rice-pledging scheme investigations will lend more legitimacy than the NPOMC setting up its own committee to scrutinise and seize assets.

Appointed Senator Jate Siritharanont said it remains unclear what powers the Senate will have after the constitution, and particularly the provisions relating to the Senate, were abrogated.

He said the Senate will have to wait for further announcements from the NPOMC.

Sen Jate said he believed an interim constitution should be drawn up to specify the scope of the Senate's authority.

Regarding the authority to nominate an interim prime minister, Sen Jate said the NPOMC already has the authority to submit the name of a candidate for royal endorsement.

He said the NPOMC had kept the Senate intact because the junta wants to maintain links with the people and to show it still supports democracy, given that more than half of the Senate are elected members.

The Senate has 150 members, with one elected from each of the 77 provinces and the rest appointed by a committee.

The NPOMC allowing the Senate to submit the name of a new premier for royal approval should be more legitimate than if it does so by itself, Sen Jate said.

A plenary meeting of the Council of State, the government's legal arm, on Thursday confirmed the legality of Surachai Liangboonlertchai's appointment as new Senate speaker and Peerasak Porchit as deputy speaker.

If and when Sen Surachai is endorsed by a royal command, he will have the legitimacy to submit the name of a nominated prime minister for royal endorsement.

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