Thai Junta finds another reason to delay elections

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha attends the Reception on the occasion of Armed Forces Day at Royal Thai Army Club, Bangkok, on Sunday. (Bangkok Post photo)

The National Legislative Assembly will vote on Thursday on a bill that could delay the general election by up to 120 days – a month longer than the 90 days it considered earlier – meaning the general election might not be held until March 2019.

Last week, a panel vetting the MP election bill voted to extend by 90 days the “effective date” of the bill. This version of the bill will be tabled for a vote by the NLA on Thursday.

But on Monday, one of the two minority panel members said they would exercise the right to put a 120-day extension as another option for the NLA to consider.

Taweesak Suthakavatia told Matichon Online he insisted on adding the “120-day extension” as another option, in addition to “no extension” and the “90-day delay” for the vote.

“Several of the laws passed by the NLA can’t be implemented or enforced because related agencies do not have adequate time to prepare themselves. As a result, the NCPO [the National Council for Peace and Order] has to issue orders to extend them.

“It’s most likely the same for the MP election bill. If an extension is to be made, I think we should give adequate time so parties can properly prepare themselves. In my view, 120 days should be long enough and the NCPO [chief] need not exercise his powers to solve the problem,” he said, referring to NCPO chief Prayut Chan-o-cha’s absolute power granted under the 2014 interim charter and carried over to the 2017 constitution.

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In Mr Taweesak’s view, the extension should be even longer – six months – but since no one had proposed that, he settled on 120 days.

Mr Taweesak said that before the vote he would argue that the longer extension was necessary. “In the end, it’s up to the NLA to decide.”

Tanee Onla-iad, the other minority panel member, said he actually had 150 days in mind – but since Mr Taweesak proposed 120 days, he went along with the idea.

He declined to give reasons, saying the panel had not authorised panel members to discuss details with the press.

The effective date of the bill, one of the four organic laws constitutionally required to take effect before polls can be held, is closely linked to when the general election can take place.

The charter requires the general election to be completed 150 days after the four laws take effect. According to the roadmap, the NLA has until the end of June to pass the four laws – and it was widely understood that the general election would take place 150 days later, towards the end of November this year.

However, it was pointed out by government lawyers this month that the day a law is passed or published in the Royal Gazette and the day it takes effect need not be the same. By delaying the effective date of one of the four laws, the general election can be put off accordingly.

If the NLA votes on the 120-day extension, the general election would not take place until March next year. – Bangkok Post


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