It was something of a surprise a few days ago when The Dictator used Article 44to halt all selections for independent bodies. Sure, Article 44 has been used for all manner of things, from land seizures to universities and political repression, but this use seemed somewhat odd.
General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s order “suspended the selection of ombudsmen, election commissioners, Constitutional Court judges, members of the National Anti-Corruption Commission, and national human rights commissioners, pending the promulgation of a new charter.”
Now the reason is clear and in the media. As Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam “explained,” Prayuth’s “order on Wednesday halting the selection of a new ombudsman was issued to prevent a ‘serious untoward incident’…”.
The media asked for more information. Wissanu declared that it was “aimed at preventing serious repercussions.”
The media asked for more information: “Asked why the ombudsman’s selection process could have such a serious impact, Mr Wissanu said, ‘If you were at the parliament, you would know. It was a serious issue that should not have happened’.”
The order prevented the National Legislative Assembly from considering the partially complete selection of Rewat Visarutvej as a new ombudsman from continuing.
Why did the junta want the process halted? It seems that Dr Rewat, a former chief of the Medical Services Department and former adviser to the Office of the Ombudsman, has been blackballed because some of the junta members and some of the deeply yellow think he is tainted.
For them, it is a sin that Dr Rewat served as an adviser to red-shirt leader Nattawut Saikua when he was a deputy minister in Thailand’s last elected government. That made him “problematic,” threatening a “serious untoward incident” that would have had “serious repercussions.”
The NLA itself was split on Rewat, so the junta stepped in to prevent an appointment they considered impossible – no red shirts allowed.
NLA member, junta friend and former member of the 2006 junta, General Somjet Boonthanom “said if this selection proceeded, it could be seen as the NLA failing its duty and people would lose faith in it as well as the NCPO.” (Had some members forgotten who is paying for their rice, cars, advisers and more?)
Readers will recall that Yingluck Shinawatra was unanimously found at fault by the Constitutional Court and dismissed from office for the transfer of a top security officer, Thawil Pliensri, as National Security Council secretary-general in 2011. Yet the junta, with its own rules, impunity and double standards supported by “independent agencies” can do whatever it wants, when the fear of Thaksin Shinawatra is driving them.
Update: Some reports state that Rewat has the support of the brass. In that case, the junta seems as concerned about yellow opposition as it does of Thaksin. For the referendum, they want no opposition at all.