The interior permanent secretary has insisted there will be no change to the local administration structure following the military regime's new order governing the selection of members of local bodies' councils after they have been dissolved.
The order, which was published in the Royal Gazette on Wednesday, empowers a committee led by the ministry's permanent secretary to pick the councillors of the local bodies in the final step after they are dissolved. The order excludes the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.
This replaces the regime's previous order which authorised the provincial panels, led by the provincial governors, to handle the entire selection process.
"I confirm the government and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) will not change the structure of regional and local administrations," said Grisada Boonrach, interior permanent secretary, responding to increasing speculation that the regime intended to overhaul the structures of local administration organisations (LAOs).
He noted the order is only for this transition period before the new government steps in.
"This also has nothing to do with the preparations for the referendum," he insisted.
According to the order, the interior permanent secretary will be the chairman of the selection panel and the deputy permanent secretary will be deputy chairman and be responsible for community development and local administration support.
The panel members consist of director-generals of the Department of Provincial Administration, Department of Community Development, Department of Lands, Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation and Department of Local Administration.
The order states when a local body's council is dissolved, the provincial governor responsible for that area has to propose a list of names three times greater than the number of council seats to the selection panel within 15 days and the panel will pick the councillors from the list.
Mr Grisada said the order was made to prevent any conflicts of interest among provincial governors as they would have the power to both dissolve the local bodies' councils and appoint people.
"This may lead them to select their relatives for jobs," the permanent secretary said.
"The government wants to make changes that comply with good governance practices."
Meanwhile, the regime's moves concerning the matter have been under close watch by LAO members.
Cheu Hunjinda, head of the national federation of chiefs administrator of TAOs, said on his Facebook page that the order governing the selection of local bodies' councillors may be a hint that a major overhaul of the LAOs will ensue.
"We, as the officers in LAOs, will keep close tabs on the changes, and it is important to work together to support reforms for improvement," Mr Cheu said.
Noppadol Kaewsupat, president of the Association of TAOs, said it could be burdensome for high-ranking officials in the ministry to have to select local bodies' councillors.
"As the selection has to be done by the permanent secretary for the interior, it may not be administratively viable," Mr Noppadol said.
He said it was still premature to speculate what would happen with the LAOs in the future as there is still no information about which or how many LAOs will be dissolved. He insisted the administration bodies needs people who are elected by local residents.