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Cablegate: Thailand: Nccc Resignations Spur Moves to Amend

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 003635

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV. HQ USPACOM FOR FPA HUSO.

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV TH NCCC
SUBJECT: THAILAND: NCCC RESIGNATIONS SPUR MOVES TO AMEND
CONSTITUTION

REF: BANGKOK 3521

1. (SBU) Summary: The Thaksin administration and the
political opposition are both drafting proposals for a
constitutional amendment on the selection process for the
National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC), from which all
nine National Counter Corruption Commissioners resigned
following their convictions for fiscal malfeasance (Reftel).
The opposition, led by the Democrat Party (DP), is expected
to submit a version that would drop the political parties
from the process and add participants from other
organizations. In addition to the NCCC, the opposition is
proposing this process for selection of the Election
Commission and the Constitutional Court. The government's
version, which reportedly will limit the political parties
participants to the Leader of the Opposition and the
President of Parliament, is expected to be submitted to the
Parliament over the next several days. Significantly, a
powerful, but disaffected faction within the governing Thai
Rak Thai (TRT) party is saying that amendment of the
Constitution should not be restricted to the article
governing selection of the constitutional independent bodies,
but should also include revision of articles that have
circumscribed the ability of members of Parliament (MP) to
change parties. End summary.

CABINET GO-AHEAD FOR AMENDMENT ON NATIONAL COUNTER CORRUPTION
COMMISSION

2. (U) The Thaksin administration is expected to shortly
submit to the Parliament an amendment on the selection
process for the disgraced National Counter Corruption
Commission (NCCC), from which all nine National Counter
Corruption Commissioners resigned following their recent
convictions for fiscal malfeasance. Following the Cabinet's
regular Tuesday meeting on May 31, Deputy Prime Minister
Wissanu Krea-Ngam had announced that that the government
agreed to initiate an amendment to Article 297 of the 1997
Constitution that sets forth the composition of the selection
committee for the National Counter Corruption Commission.
DPM Wissanu said the Government would confine the scope of
the amendment to this aspect only. The Council of State is
tasked to draft an amendment bill for submission to the
National Assembly in the next several days.

The government's proposed selection committee would include:

- President of the Supreme Court of Justice
- President of the Constitutional Court
- President of the Supreme Administrative Court
- 7 State Universities Rectors
- Chairman of the Election Commission of Thailand
- Chairman of the Human Rights Commission
- Ombudsman
- The Auditor-General
- President of the National Assembly
- Leader of the Opposition.

OPPOSITION PROPOSAL EXPECTED TO GO FARTHER

3. (U) The opposition parties (Democrat and Chart Thai) are
also expected to submit to Parliament their own proposed
constitutional amendments concerning the composition of
selection committees for membership on the key "watchdog
bodies" -- the Election Commission, the Constitutional Court
and the National Counter Corruption Commission. As in the
case of the government's submission, the opposition proposal
drops the stipulated 5 representatives of political parties
from the process, but adds 5 participants selected from among
the 99 members of the National Economic and Social Advisory
Council (NESAC). (Note: NESAC was created as an independent
mechanism by the current 1997 Constitution, Section 89, which
states: that "For the purpose of the implementation of this
Chapter, the State shall establish the National Economic and
Social Council to be charged with the duty to give advice and
recommendations to the council of Ministers on economic and
social problems. End note) The opposition also proposes
adding 4 other members of the selection committee to be drawn
from the 86 members of the Assembly of Supreme Judges.

Under this proposal, the new selection committee will
comprise the following members:

- 5 members of the National Economic and Social Advisory
Council
- 2 Human Rights Commissioners
- 7 State Universities Rectors
- President of the Supreme Court of Justice
- President of the Constitutional Court
- President of the Supreme Administrative Court
- 4 Supreme Court Judges.

IF THE AMENDMENT PROCESS GOES FORWARD

4. (U) The constitutional amendment process is based on
Article 313 of the Constitution, and consists of the
following principal steps:

Submission of the Amendment Motion

The Council of Ministers (or the Cabinet), or 1/5 of the 500
MPs in the House of Representatives (i.e., a minimum 100
MPs), or 1/5 of both the combined House and 200-strong
Senate (i.e., 140 MPs and Senators altogether) are authorized
by the Constitution to propose amendments to the National
Assembly (Joint Session of the House and Senate).

Amendment Process:

The motion or draft constitution amendment will be submitted
to the National Assembly for three required readings:

First Reading - Voting in the first reading for acceptance in
principle of the draft shall be by roll call and open voting,
and has to be approved by votes of not less than half of the
total number of the exiting members of both Houses (not less
than 350 votes);

Second Reading - Voting in the second reading for
consideration section by section shall be decided by a simple
majority of votes; and

Third Reading - Voting in the third reading shall be made
after 15-day interval from the second reading and the vote is
decided by roll call and open voting, and its approval must
be approved by votes of more than one-half of the total
number of the existing members of both Houses (or more than
350 votes).

Royal Endorsement

Following approval by the Parliament, the draft constitution
will be submitted to the King for Royal endorsement and
subsequent inclusion in the Government Gazette before it
becomes effective.

IN OPENING CONSTITUTION FOR AMENDMENT SOME MPS SEE AN
OPPORTUNITY

5. (U) On May 31, Surapol Fongngarm, Constituency MP from
Ubon Ratchathani and a leading member of the Wang Nam Yen
Faction of Thai Rak Thai Party (TRT), said that members of
his faction, including faction leader and TRT Party Chief
Advisor Sanoh Thiengthong, had decided that amendment of the
current Constitution should not be restricted to the article
governing the selection committee for the National Counter
Corruption Commission (NCCC) and other constitutional
independent bodies. Rather Surapol added, all other
"controversial" articles of the 1997 Constitution should be
looked at. He listed for consideration the requirement that
a candidate must be a member of a political party for at
least 90 days prior to election day (Article 107 (4)), and
the voting requirements for the submission of no-confidence
debates against the Prime Minister (Article 186) and
individual ministers (Article 185)). The Wang Nam Yen
Faction's move clearly contradicts Prime Minister Thaksin's
stated intent to sponsor only an essential constitutional
amendment governing the composition of the NCCC selection
committee and reflects the faction's chaffing under the
restrictions the Constitution place on the ability of faction
leaders to engage in political maneuvering and horse trading.

6. (SBU) Comment: While the conundrum brought about by the
1997 Constitution's ill-defined rights and selection formulas
for the independent committees can be remedied through some
legal fine tuning, the question of amending articles relating
to the powers of the members of Parliament is more
significant and potentially troubling. The 90-day rule has
brought about its intended purpose of keeping factions from
switching parties and provided the political stability that
the drafters envisioned. This will be the first time that
this reform constitution has been opened for amendment.
There have been other proposals over the past several years
for constitutional amendments, but, with enough general
chariness about the possibility that Parliament, public
advocacy groups and business interests might seek to change
selectively portions to fit their agendas -- precisely the
situation now -- the issue has always dissipated.

BOYCE

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