More powers for investigators
CDR sets up new 12-member panel with ability to freeze suspect assets
In its most concrete move involving the probe of allegedly corrupt politicians, the ruling junta yesterday revamped its special graft investigation panel with more members and the power to freeze suspect assets.
In two separate legally-binding announcements, the Council for Democratic Reform (CDR) set up a new 12-member committee to replace the Asset Examination Committee it established last Sunday, and also gave more authority to the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC).
The CDR's Announcement No 30 named Klanarong Chantik, Kaewsan Atibhoti, Khunying Jaruvan Maintaka, Nam Yimyaem, Sawat Chotephanich, Sak Korsaengruang, Saowanee Asavaroj, Udom Fuangfoong, Banjerd Singkaneti, Viroj Lawhaphandu, Jiraniti Hawanon and Amnuay Thantara as members of the new high-powered panel.
The panel members will select their chairman and secretary from among themselves, according to the order.
Some of the members were on the dissolved asset-probe committee, including Auditor-General Jaruvan and former Election Commission chairman Sawat, who have reportedly been at odds about the scope of its mission.
Other members of the new panel are known critics of the deposed prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, namely Kaewsan and Sak.
Announcement 30, one of
five issued by the CDR yesterday, came after the ruling generals came under fire over the fact
that the mandate of the previous asset-probe panel was unclear, which could lead to failure to accomplish its goals.
The new committee is empowered to investigate any projects or acts by members of the Thaksin government and others who are suspected of irregularities, including tax evasion.
The panel can freeze their assets if they have sufficient evidence.
In Announcement No 29, the CDR commanded that Auditor-General Jaruvan Maintaka remain in office until September 30 next year.
The order stated that selection of the auditor-general and the State Audit Commission be done within 90 days after the auditor-general's term expires.
In Announcement No 31 issued yesterday, the CDR empowered the NCCC to freeze assets of any politician who failed to report their financial information by the deadline set by law and those who intentionally reported false information about their assets and liabilities.
In Announcement No 27, another legally binding order that could also have a great impact, the CDR amended the Political Parties Act to provide for punishment of executives of any political party dissolved for violating the law.
With the order, political party executives will be stripped of their electoral rights for five years if a court orders their party to be dissolved. This will effectively keeps the party's leaders out of politics for at least two four-year terms of the House of Representatives.
Originally, the law banned executives of a dissolved political party from forming a new party or becoming executives in a new party, but they were free to contest a new election.
Political scientist Prayad Hongthongkham agreed with the order, saying that the added punishment was "proper", as party executives needed to take responsibility for severe legal violations that led to their party's dissolution.
However, Parinya Thewa-
narumitkul, a law lecturer at Thammasat University, disagreed. He said it was unfair to punish individual politicians for a wrongdoing that they did not necessarily commit.
The Thai Rak Thai and Democrat parties, as well as some other minor political parties, are facing cases in the Constitution Court stemming alleged wrongdoing from the April 2 general election and face dissolution if found guilty.