“The prolongation of NCPO power” was not just a discourse but legally concrete.

“The prolongation of NCPO power” was not just a discourse but legally concrete.

เมื่อ 25 มิ.ย. 2562

The Parliamentary meeting that took place on 5 June 2019 lasted almost the entire day. The main topic of discussion was the legitimacy of the current government leaders’ power. Some of the parliamentary representatives argued that leaders of 2014 coup wished to prolong its power in the constitution, whereas some parliamentary representatives and senators said that to prolong power was not real, and it was just a political discourse.  


Observing the 2017 Constitution and laws, written during the NCPO era, political mechanisms were formed in order to maintain NCPO power after the election. The legal concrete form of inheriting power is demonstrated in this political mechanisms.






1. The electoral system was designed for own interest.


The NCPO appointed its own people for designing the electoral system according to the 2017 Constitution,  named “ a mixed member appointment system (MMA)”. It imposed that the House of Representatives coming from the election has 500 members and then it was divided into 350 constituency seats and 150 party list seats. Voters would cast only one ballot for choosing constituency, and then the votes would be calculated for the number of party-list seats by using a complicated mathematical formula which made it hard to understand. Also, it was interpreted newly in order to be more complicated by the ECT.


The MMA system made large parties, which gained a lot of constituency seats, a clear disadvantage. If any parties won 120-150 out of total constituency, it still would not be a landslide victory. The party list seats gained could be few or none at all. It was designed to destroy the Pheu Thai party which was the only party that could gain a large number of constituency seats. If any party won every constituency which gained 350 seats, the party would not get any party list seats, and so it could not attain the 376 seats needed to form the government.           


On the contrary, this system would make the vote from constituency members more important because it made medium size parties which had political stronghold gain more seats. Therefore, local influencers became vital players. This lead to the “buying MPs” phenomenon in many areas. Influencers like “local politician” became an important mechanism which led impacted the results of the election. Meanwhile, national policy and political position were less important.


When the electoral system was designed by the NCPO, Pheu Thai Party try to adapt to this mechanism by breaking the large party into small and medium ones, and one of them was dissolved. The NCPO set up its party to take advantage of this system as well. Even Somsak Thepsuthin, the leader of Palang Pracharat Party, said that “This Constitution was designed for us.” For other political parties such as Bhumuathai Party, Chart Thai Pattana Party, they gained benefits from this new system and joined the Palang Pracharat Party to form the government.    


If MMA was not amended, it would have offered advantage to the Pro-NCPO parties in the next election.   



2. Forming own political party in order to nominate its Prime Minister.


Palang Pracharat Party registered its party by Chuan Chuchan, who was Somkid Jatusripisak’s confidant, and 4 ministers from Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s government to be the main force. There were Uttama Savanayana, the Minister of Industry, serving as the leader of the party, Suvit Maesincee, the Minister of Science and Technology, serving as the deputy leader, Sontirat Sontijirawong , the Minister of Commerce, serving as the party secretary, Kobsak Pootrakool, the minister attached to the Prime Minister’s office, serving as the spokesman.


Meanwhile, there was a movement of “Three Allies” led by Suriya Juangroongruangkit, the former Minister during the Thaksin Shinawatra government and the former Secretary party of Thai Rak Thai Party, Somsak Thepsuthin, the leader of Matchima group, the former Minister of 4 Ministries, and finally, Somkid Jatusripitak was the Deputy Minister of Economy for the NCPO government.


Notably, Palang Pracharat Party named itself after the “Pracharat policy”. This was a policy created by the NCPO which provided support for businesses and communities in Thailand. The overt naming of a party after an NCPO policy cements the connection between these two. The party nominated General Prayuth Chan-o-cha to be the Prime Minister again. Ultimately the party was formed in order to promote the NCPO policy and bring members of the NCPO back to power after the election.     


During the election, the Palang Pacharat Party persuaded politicians from other parties to join, this strategy is called ‘sucking power’. The Palang Pacharat Party targeted politicians from major parties like Pheu Thai and the Democrat Party. This persuasion was done through bribery and the promise to help dismiss standing legal cases against them. When several local politicians moved, joining the Palang Pacharat Party, corruption investigations going on around them were ordered to be ended. 



3. Appointing senators for votes


Since the referendum drafting the Constitution in 2016, the NCPO assigned the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) according to National Reform of Steering Assembly (NRSA) suggestion to propose an additional question to the Constitution. It prescribed that in the first 5 years of the parliament, 250 senators, which are selected by the NCPO, will cooperate with the House of Representatives in order to vote for the Prime Minister. 


Though the Constitution imposed the complicated process of senator selection. In the final process, the NCPO selected senators by itself. The senators were divided into three groups. 1) The 6 senators were the commanders of the armed forces and permanent secretary of the Ministry of Defence. 2) The senators selected each other from 10 professionals, and the NCPO would select 50 senators in the final round. 3) The 194 senators from the Nomination Committee which General Prayuth appointed General Prawit Wongsuwan to be a principal for naming 400 nominees and then NCPO handpicked for 194 senators.


When the NCPO selected and declared the name list of 250 senators, it was found that 157 senators had worked with the NCPO before. Twenty of them were members of the NCPO, 89 were former members of NLA, 35 were former members of  NRSA, 26 were members of NRC, 18 had served as the ministers of the NCPO government, 26 were on the committee of NRC, and 25 people were on the committee of national strategy. In addition, some senators were peers or relatives of people who worked in the NCPO, and some senators were involved with the Palang Pracharat Party, which nominated Prayuth as PM. 


The senators had the authority to preserve the “long-lasting NCPO regime” as well because senators have powers according to this Constitution to stop laws proposed by the House of Representatives, and laws regarding “reformation”. Also, the senators had the authority to amend the constitution, to regulate the 20-year national strategy as well as the nation reformation plan, and to approve individuals to work in independent entities.  


Backgrounds of the appointed senators Read https://ilaw.or.th/node/5261

The authority of the senators Read https://ilaw.or.th/node/5265



4. Selecting people to work in independent entities


The NCPO exercised its power according to “Section 44” and imposed the regulation and mechanism to recruit a committee for the independent entities. This allowed the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), which was appointed by the NCPO, to consider and approve nominees on the list to serve for years. Right now, the independent entities that are supposed to be independent and investigate the state power such as the Constitutional Court, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), the State Audit Office (SAO), and the National Human Right Commission (NHRC) consist of people selected by the NCPO. 


During the NCPO period, “all independent entities” issued orders to benefit the NCPO and members of the NCPO. For example, 


  • The NACC considered Prawit’s possession of watches and found him not guilty.
  • The ECT and the Constitutional Court dissolved the Thai Raksa Chart Party.
  • The ECT  found the Palang Pracharat Party not guilty of receiving funding from foreigners at a fundraising party but did no investigation on receiving funding from government bodies which was the public's primary concern.
  • The ombudsman did not consider General Prayuth Chan-o-cha a “state official”, which would have prevented his candidacy, and said Prayuth had the proper qualification to be Prime Minister.
  • The ECT considered the qualification of the representative candidate of Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, and the Constitutional Court ordered him to stop performing as MP.


Apart from these independent entities, there were many state organizations that the NCPO used its power to interfere with and ordered “reliable” NCPO supporter to be in place, such as the Secretary-General of the Council of State, the judge committee of the Administrative Court,  Anti-Money Laundering Office, the committee of qualified attorney, the attorney general, the committee of the Judicial Commission, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the committee of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission.      


The committee of “independent entities” selected by the process of the NCPO have kept their positions since the election and will last until the end of their tenure. For the process of recruiting new committee members, the selection committee will be consists of representatives from courts and other independent entities, it also requires approval from the senators picked by the NCPO. Therefore, these organizations that were supposed to scrutinize state power will exist and continue to protect the NCPO. 


The methods that the NCPO used to take over many independent entities. Read https://ilaw.or.th/node/4808

Roles of the NCPO about appointing members in many independent entities. Read




5. The written 20-year national strategy used as the NCPO’s tool. 


One of the ways the NCPO inherited its power was by asking the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) to prescribe “the national strategy” in the Constitution. In the legislation, it prescribed that the nation must have a national strategy. Later on, the NCPO government proposed the bill of the national strategy and passed to add mechanisms for the NCPO to appoint the national strategy committee as well. 


The national strategy committee appointed by General Prayuth Chan-o-cha, head of the NCPO and the Prime Minister, consisted of committees who once was in the cabinet, from the military, civil servants, and private sectors which had worked with the NCPO. Apart from, the cabinet or other committee appointed by the NCPO, General Prayuth appointed himself to be the chair of the committee as well.      


The national strategy committee has taken their position for 5 years. They used their authority to write the national strategy which is expected to be effective for 20 years, plus are cooperating with the appointed senators to regulate that every governmental decision follows this 76-pages plan, covering the policy and budget. If the government does not follow the plan, there could be faced severe punishments such as individuals being disqualified for political positions.  


Worth mentioning, some of the national strategy committee were also senators, which had the authority to follow and regulate the government. Therefore, some committees can draft the strategy and regulate the government at the same time, such as Pol.Gen. Chakthip Chaijinda, Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, who was the president of the Senate, Uttama Savanayana and Suvit Maesincee, the leaders of Palang Pracharat Party.


“The 20-year national strategy” Read https://ilaw.or.th/node/4775



6. Drafting the reformation plan for punishing rivals


One of the ways the NCPO inherited power was by asking the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) to prescribe a special chapter about country reformation for the first time in the Constitution. Under Chapter 16, Section 257-261, the NCPO government drafted a bill in regards to the stages of the reformation within 120 days, it mandates that the plan had to be carried out within 1 year since the enforcement of this Constitution and result had to appear in 5 years. 


Later on, the National Legislative Assembly agreed with the plan and the Reformation Act which created the opportunity for an NCPO government. It formed 11 sets of committees for writing 11 plans for reformation. There were at least 120 people who were appointed, consisting of former members of the National Reformation council and the National Reform Steering Assembly. These councils were appointed by the NCPO as well. The committee had the authority to write the reformation plan of the nation that public servants are required to follow. If they did not follow this plan, they could be punished as well.


The reformation plan for 11 aspects was done and promulgated. Its length is at least 3,000 pages, covering various government mandates. Each member of the NCPO taking position in these councils still have not reached their tenure. They are still in their position after the election under the new government and will be until 2020. 


Some members of the national reformation committee took positions as senators who have the authority to regulate the government. It allowed some committee members to draft the plan and regulate the government at the same time, such as Seri Suwanpanon, Pornthip Rojanasunand, and Kamnoon Sidhisamarn.


The national reformation committee. Read https://ilaw.or.th/node/4602



7. Maintain announcements and orders to silence the opposition


For 5 years, the NCPO regime exercised special power and declared at least 556 issued orders, this authority did not create from a public participation process, they never listened to opposition, and were never held accountable by the Court.


Many orders were issued in order to authorize the power to the state official, especially the military and to ban people from expressing their opinions and having their political participation limitedly. Though the election has passed, these orders still were not abolished. For example


The NCPO order No. 97/2014 banned the media from presenting the content which affected national security and led to conflict and confusion

The NCPO order No. 64/2014  authorized the military to seize people’s land for preserving the forest

The Head of the NCPO orders No. 3/2015, 13/2016, 55/2018 authorized the military official to detain people in the military camp for 7 days before informing charges. 


There were also many issued orders that have since been dismissed. These orders were mainly used to charge and prosecute people and political group that expressed their opinion against the NCPO. Such as the NCPO order No. 7/2014 which banned political gatherings of more than 5 people, the NCPO order No. 41/2014, mandating that one must report themselves to officials if summoned by the NCPO, the NCPO order No. 57/2014, which banned political parties to perform any activity. These orders were used continuously until it created an atmosphere of silence and fear. 


The announcements and orders were guaranteed by the Constitution which was written by the NCPO. Section 279 gave them status to be as effective as laws. Although the NCPO will be dismissed, this section would maintain the role of the military performing various activities and limit the freedom of expression like these 5 years. 



8. Writing the unalterably Constitution to keep grips on its power


The NCPO spent time drafting the Constitution, starting in 2017, for 2 years and 8 months, having 2 groups of commissioners for 2 Constitution drafts. This new constitution was declared on 6 April 2017. Beyond wasting time and resources, the drafting of this constitution made it so that even parties with many votes in the parliament, still can not amend the Constitution. Section 256 requires any Constitutional amendment is approved by majority seats with one-third of the senators, which is 84 out of 250. During the first 5 years, all senators are appointed by the NCPO. 


The process of amending the Constitution in the Parliament has 3 phases. The first one is to propose the amendment which must gain more than half of the votes from both the House of Representatives and the Senate. It requires votes from at least one-third of all senators, and then it can enter phase 2. This phase is to arrange sections which it would base on a majority vote. If the amendment was proposed by 50,000 signatures of people, a representative of the people would be given the opportunity to express their opinion as well. After that, it would take 15 days to reach the third phase. The final phase requires half the votes from both the House of Representative and the Senate consisting of the House of Representative with 20 percent from political parties with no members that belong to ministries, the President of the House of Representative, or the Vice President of the House of Representative  (which targets the opposition party) as well as votes accounting for one-third of the Senate. When the resolution is approved, it will take 15 days and then be offered to the King.  


In addition, if they would like to amend issues regarding the General Chapter, Monarchy Chapter, qualifications of each political position, and the process of Constitutional amendment, Section 256 prescribed that after having voted in the parliament, it had to do the referendum for general people to approve as well.  


Therefore, to amend the Constitution 84 votes from NCPO appointed senators is required, meaning indirectly the NCPO will have to agree with issues for them to pass, and it still requires support from the opposition parties. Even though the Pro-NCPO side became a minority in parliament, it still has the authority to “inhibit” amendments to the Constitution. 


To amend Constitution Read https://ilaw.or.th/node/4076