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Thai Military’s 20-Year Strategic Plan Not ‘Compulsory,’ Spokesman Says

Nontarat Phaicharoen and Avika Ongrattanakana
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Pro-democracy activists gather at Democracy Monument in Bangkok to mark the second anniversary of the junta-led government takeover, May 22, 2016.
Pro-democracy activists gather at Democracy Monument in Bangkok to mark the second anniversary of the junta-led government takeover, May 22, 2016.
Nontarat Phaicharoen/BenarNews

Future governments will not be required to follow a 20-year plan put in place by the current military junta, a senior official said Monday, in an apparent roll back of statements last week about a new law that critics say will prolong military control over Thailand for years to come.

The junta-appointed National Legislation Assembly (NLA) passed the National Strategy Bill 218-0 with three abstentions on Thursday, paving the way for formation of a 17-member National Strategy Committee to be led by Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-cha.

“The upcoming national strategy isn’t set in stone or compulsory to the new governments to follow. It includes a broad vision and a goal for the nation in the next 20 years,” Adm. Pallop Tamisanon, an NLA member and spokesman for the strategy drafting committee, said Monday.

The committee to establish a 20-year national strategy will include seven top military officers, according to the new law. It will officially be formed after the law is posted in the Royal Gazette.

The law also calls for creation of a subcommittee charged with monitoring the compliance of future governments formed after elections, now expected at the end of 2018.

Pallop’s comments during a televised session of the NLA were in sharp contrast to those of Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Kreau-ngam, who told reporters Friday that new governments must follow the plan or face being disbanded and potential jail terms for their leaders.

“The national strategy sub-committee will monitor how the new governments would run the country for five years and will report guilt, if any. It is a big issue,” Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Kreau-ngam told reporters after the bill was passed.

“Any governments that fail to follow it, commit wrong-doing or defy it, will be investigated by the counter corruption commission and tried by the Constitutional Court,” he said.

‘Too harsh’

Since constitutional democracy came about in 1932, at least 19 coups have shaken Thailand. In the most recent, populist leaders Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck were toppled in their roles as prime minister in coups launched by the military in 2006 and 2014.

Prayuth has said he needed to oust Yingluck in May 2014 to restore national stability, and that new elections will not be held until the nation is at peace. Political street violence has killed hundreds of people in Thailand over the last 12 years.

Critics said the new law would enable the military to hold the reins of power even after it allows the country to hold democratic elections.

Nipit Indarasombat, deputy leader of the Democrat Party, questioned the law’s penalties.

“It is too harsh, I think. The issue came out of the junta-appointed NLA which does not necessarily go along the wish of people,” he told BenarNews in a phone interview. “The committee strategy might not fit people’s liking and when future governments do things their own way, they could be subjected to a jail term. That is odd.”

A former representative of Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party said the national strategic template would not allow Thailand to adapt to rapid global changes.

“I don’t agree with the 20-year strategy planning simply because it dictates that new governments do what it says, leaving no room for adapting to changes. Amending laws is hard,” Somkid Cheaukong told BenarNews.

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