CNS general backs law for unelected PM
Sonthi denies interference as opposition lashes out at 'undemocratic' proposal
Council for National Security chairman General Sonthi Boonyarat-glin meets Muslim youngsters from southern border provinces at the Islamic Centre of Thailand yesterday. Sonthi dismissed allegations of CNS interference in the constitution drafting process.
A Council for National Security (CNS) member yesterday backed the idea of leaving the option open in the new constitution for a non-elected person to become prime minister.
General Somjet Boonthanom, head of the CNS Secretariat, said he believed the proposal, raised during the constitution drafters' brainstorming session last week, was aimed at preventing a political deadlock similar to one ahead of last September's coup.
"This should be a good way out. The 1997 constitution provided no such exit and that led to a constitutional dead-end," the general said. "There were calls for a royally-appointed prime minister. And when there was really no way out, political changes by the military took place."
His viewpoint echoed the arguments by supporters of the proposal, which included Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) chairman Prasong Soonsiri.
The general aired his views even as CNS chairman General Sonthi Boonyaratglin rejected accusations of interference by the junta in the charter-drafting. "I have never talked to CDC chairman Prasong Soonsiri, nor to any of its members. It is up to them [how the constitution should be]," he said.
Somjet said yesterday the CNS had not taken any official stance on the matter.
He said his office would host a seminar this week about a new constitution from the military's perspective. At least 80 senior military officers would participate in the meeting from Wednesday to Friday at the Ambassador Hotel in Pattaya, he said.
CDC member Kirkkiat Pipatseri-tham yesterday downplayed Prasong's comment made during last week's brainstorming session of the drafters that a non-elected PM can be allowed. "He was only joking. He may have wanted to relieve tension in the meeting,'' he said.
Kirkkiat said the proposal had no chance of approval because over 30 of the 35 committee members disagreed with it. He said he believed that over 90 per cent of NLA members were also opposed to the idea of allowing a non-elected prime minister.
The Democrat and Thai Rak Thai parties yesterday also voiced opposition to the proposal by some constitution drafters to allow a non-elected person to become prime minister.
Democrat Party spokesman Ongart Klampaiboon said yesterday that the public had struggled to have an elected PM, which had also led to bloodshed in May 1992.
"The spirit of the fight has continued and this proves that the power of people is above any other power. It is the most important democratic principle that the leader must be elected by the people and not those who have never offered themselves for public consideration," he said.
Choosak Sirinil, chairman of the Thai Rak Thai Party panel to monitor the work of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), said the chairman of the NLA was among those who had fought against a non-elected PM during the Black May protests of 1992.
"We checked all countries around the world, which use the parliamentary system, and there is not a single country that allows a non-elected PM. Thailand would be an exception and later would use this exception as a principle. It is this abuse of loopholes that has led to political crises," he argued.
He also opposed the move to change the electoral system to three MPs for each constituency, reasoning it has been proved to be impractical. "This system makes party candidates compete among themselves and leads to even bigger scale vote-buying. This is a step backward for democracy," he said.
He suggested the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) should include in the constitution a ban on vested interests for not only politicians but even permanent government officials.
Meanwhile, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva expressed concern yesterday over the recent proposal warning that whenever there will be an attempt to add an undemocratic clause in the Constitution, the country will experience political tension.
"The proposal to have a non-elected PM for instance has created public mistrust in the government. They need to restore public confidence,'' he said.
Thai Rak Thai Party caretaker executive Veera Musigapong yesterday opposed the non-elected PM proposal saying the move is an attempt to cheat in the political race from the beginning. "Anybody who wants a trophy in a golf tournament must join the competition,'' he said.
He also criticised the move to have three MPs in one constituency saying it was an attempt to prevent the Thai Rak Thai Party from returning to power because this electoral system would weaken the party system.
"They hope that the next government will be a coalition and they can manage to be the leader of the coalition,'' he said.
In a related development, Somsak Kosaisuk, a leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy, dismissed as unreasonable the argument of constitution drafters that a non-elected PM should be allowed during a time of crisis as had happened during the Thaksin government. He said that having a non-elected PM shows the country is stepping backward and not moving forward.
"We should not pin our hope on a non-elected PM to solve the political crisis. We should write a constitution that creates balance of power and prevents political interference, and also strengthens the check system," he said.
Campaign for Popular Democracy deputy secretary-general Somkuan Promthong said that allowing a non-elected PM would lead to the boycott of the constitution by the people.
"To bring the country back to a normal democratic condition, the drafters must remove immediately the clause that allows a non-elected PM," he said.