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Accountability of all elite

Amid the cheers over the seizure of Thaksin’s assets, Somchai Preechasilpakul of Midnight University points to the need to make all political elites accountable, not merely a particular group of politicians.

The seizure of assets of politicians in Thailand, particularly of those who were prime ministers, has been done through unusual legal means.

The assets of former Prime Minister Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat were seized after his death in 1963 through Section 17 of the 1959 charter and those of Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn after 14 Oct 1973 through the same section of the 1972 charter.

The charters, one resulting from Sarit’s coup in 1957 and the other resulting from Thanom’s coup against his own government in 1971, were based on the principle of ‘might is right’.

Besides their illegitimate origins, these provisions were contradictory to the rule of law and the principles of democracy, in that the charters endorsed the Prime Minister’s actions as constitutional in the name of national security, public interest, etc.

The Prime Minister, under both charters, was allowed sweeping powers, without any accountability or liability whatsoever.  It was an absolute constitutional power.

The National Peace Keeping Council, which seized power from an elected government in 1990, set up an Assets Examination Committee to seize the assets of politicians.

However, the committee’s legality was rejected by the courts at that time, aborting the attempt to seize politicians’ assets.

The process of seizing Thaksin’s assets was initiated and carried out under the power of the 2006 coup.

With the three examples, Somchai wonders why such accountability is not possible under normal procedures, despite the myriad number of public law experts in this country, who have successively been part of governments, either elected or coup-appointed.

Somchai raises the question whether the seizure of assets is worth the baulking of democracy.  To be fair, a committee to scrutinize damage to Thai society due to coups should be set up, he suggests.

He asks for accountability across the board for all political elites who also abuse their power in their own interests.

Published on Krungthep Thurakij, 4 March, 2010.


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