NCPO keeps special powers over govt

NCPO keeps special powers over govt

Interim charter grants coup-makers amnesty

The National Council for Peace and Order (NPCO) has chosen to retain certain special powers over the interim government to deal with security issues under the provisional constitution which will be unveiled soon.

These special powers do not rest with the interim prime minister but are given to the NCPO chief, junta sources, who have seen the draft of the interim charter, told the Bangkok Post Tuesday.

They are not the normal administrative powers that belong to a prime minister, but focus on security issues and can be invoked to combat threatening influences, the sources said.

It is necessary for the NCPO chief to retain power because the security situation has not yet returned to normal, the sources added.

The drafting of an interim charter paves the way for a non-elected MP or government official to be appointed prime minister.

It will be presented for NCPO approval, before being submitted to His Majesty the King for royal endorsement later this month.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, National Council for Peace and Order commander, will keep most of his peacekeeping and security power under the military-approved interim constitution. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

The source said the NCPO's legal advisory panel had suggested that the interim charter contain a section conferring special powers onto the NCPO.

These powers are equal to, or even superior to, the powers of the interim government.

Such a section is "standard practice" and has been included in all previous interim charters after past coups, except the 2006 interim charter, which had no such stipulation, the sources said.

The section of the new interim charter investing the NCPO chief with special powers was modelled on Section 27 of the 1991 interim constitution.

The 1991 interim charter was enacted after the National Peace Keeping Council (NPKC), led by then-Supreme Commander Gen Sunthorn Kongsompong, seized power from the Chatichai Choohavan government on Feb 23, 1991.

Section 27 of the 1991 interim charter gave the NPCK control over the interim government at the time, in terms of decision-making on security issues.

Another important feature of the new interim charter is to grant amnesty to members of the NCPO who seized power from the caretaker Yingluck Shinawatra government on May 22.

Amnesty will also be granted to those who acted on NCPO orders.

The sources said the interim charter contains 44-45 sections and authorises the NCPO to appoint a 200-member national legislative assembly responsible for enacting legislation, and choosing an interim prime minister.

Under the interim charter, the speaker of the national legislative assembly, not the NCPO chief, is authorised to submit the name of the interim prime minister for royal endorsement.

The interim charter also details the establishment of a 250-member reform council tasked with outlining the framework for reforms and drafting the new and permanent constitution.

The permanent constitution, which will be drawn up by a 35-member charter-drafting committee, will not be put to a referendum as the previous 2007 charter was, the sources added.

The NCPO's legal advisory panel advised the junta that putting the new draft charter to a public referendum offers the advantage that, if approved, any attempts to abolish or rewrite it would be more difficult.

The Constitutional Court set a precedent for this on July 13, 2012 when it ruled against the Pheu Thai Party-sponsored charter amendment bill seeking to rewrite the 2007 charter.

The court said the 2007 constitution was endorsed by a public referendum, so any attempt to abolish it and rewrite a new one must be approved in a similar fashion.

However, the NCPO was still concerned that if put to referendum, there is a risk the draft charter might be rejected.

A referendum is a lengthy process which will only delay promulgation of the new charter further, the sources said.

The sources said the reform council is expected to spend 45-60 days working on the framework for reforms, which will then be forwarded to the charter drafting committee to use as the basis for drafting the permanent charter.

The constitution drafting panel is expected to need 120 days before presenting the draft charter to the reform council for a vote of approval.

The draft charter will then be submitted to the King for endorsement.

The entire process is expected to take nine months, the sources said.

Under the interim charter, the current judges of the Constitutional Court will remain in their positions, though their only task will be to rule on the constitutionality of legislation.

Meanwhile, Charae Phanprueng, secretary-general of the House of Representatives, said the House secretariat is preparing parliament office buildings to accommodate incoming members of the national legislative assembly and the reform council.

The House secretariat is ready to support their work, he added.

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