In a move that caught observers completely unaware, the National Anti-Corruption Commission has initiated moves to impeach the National Legislative Assembly.
Fresh from its victory in impeaching former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the NACC seems intent on purging Thai politics of all forms of corruption. And in their way of thinking, voting constitutes a form of corruption.
Commissioner Vicha Mahakhun, who is on record as saying ‘We all know elections are evil’ during the drafting of the 2007 Constitution, has apparently persuaded his fellow commissioners that elections are also corrupt.
Because the NLA voted in the Yingluck case, the NACC will therefore impeach the entire Assembly, with the exception of one member who failed to cast a vote because illness prevented him from attending last Friday’s session.
‘The NLA did not come into existence from elections, but was appointed by the National Council for Peace and Order, and neither was the NCPO voted into office. It is quite unsuitable for them suddenly to decide that an important matter like impeachment should be decided by voting,’ explained the NACC.
The NACC move, while perhaps philosophically consistent, raises some serious questions about its practical application. If the NLA is not to decide any issue by voting, then how are decisions to be made? An NACC spokesperson said this is no real problem.
‘For any situation, there is a right decision and a wrong decision. And good people will choose the right decision and bad people will choose the wrong decision. The military, who are good people, have appointed the NLA, so they must also be good people. In fact, since the majority of the NLA are military officers, they are doubly good.
‘So as good people they will automatically make the correct decisions. And if they are in any doubt, they can just ask other good people, like the NCPO, or even us at the NACC, and we can tell them what the right decision is.
‘In the case of the Yingluck impeachment, it should have been obvious that the right decision was to remove her from an office that she no longer holds,’ he added. ‘In fact most of the NLA did that, but in the wrong way, by voting. This gave the nation a bad example of how to make important political decisions.’
When asked to explain the seemingly nonsensical situation of the NLA deciding on whether to impeach itself, the spokesperson again saw no problem. ‘In the case of that woman, she no longer held any office from which she could be removed by impeachment. Furthermore, the interim constitution that governs the working of the NLA does not give it any powers of impeachment. But that didn’t stop us from doing what was right. Everyone in this country must obey the rule of law. Especially when the rule is without mandate and the law is non-existent.’
The spokesperson was asked how the NACC had come to a decision on this impeachment move, and notably whether it had involved any voting among members of the NACC. He became quite heated in his response.
‘It is a slander to insinuate that the NACC would ever resort to corrupt practices such as voting. We did approach the Office of the Attorney-General to ask for their endorsement of our action, but the OAG kept asking for evidence that voting was corrupt, which just proves that they do not understand basic justice. We also suspected that the OAG was going to demand that any decision of the joint committee be decided by a vote. We obviously could not condone such corrupt behaviour.’
A reporter then asked for confirmation that the NACC was the only agency behind the impeachment.
‘Of course not,’ retorted the spokesperson. ‘The OAG is also behind it. After their initial foot-dragging, we called a special meeting of our joint committee where we did not invite them. This meeting then decided, without taking a vote, to impeach. Everything is perfectly fair and honest and has been done strictly according to the rules that we make up as we go along.’
The media then wanted to know what would happen to the NCPO’s roadmap for democracy if there was no NLA. In response, it was suggested that the NCPO could always appoint a new NLA, but with strict instructions to decide things as they were told, instead of holding votes. An alternative would be to transfer the NLA’s responsibilities to some other agency. To the NACC, for example.
‘But wouldn’t it violate the principle of separation of powers to have an independent agency take on a legislative role?’ asked one journalist. The spokesperson pooh-poohed that idea, noting that the judiciary had long had a de facto legislative role and the current constitution allowed the NCPO to do anything.
It was also asked how the elections promised for 2016 could take place if voting was corrupt. The NACC said that this was a matter for the Constitutional Drafting Committee, but there were doubts.
‘They might not be capable of devising a system of Thai-style democracy without elections. You see, members of the CDC themselves were elected into office. So they are already corrupt.’
About author: Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).