January 20, 2014, at 1345hrs, at the the Royal Thai Air Force, Don Muang, Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana together with Minister Attached to Office of Prime Minister and Agriculture and Cooperatives Deputy Minister Varathep Rattanakorn co-chaired the 2/2014 meeting on the national reform on behalf of the Government. Participated in the meeting were leaders and executives of over 30 political parties that registered for the upcoming general election. The meeting was aimed to exchange views and share ideas on the direction of national reform. Also attending the meeting were the cabinet members, and heads of public agencies, such as Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan, Industry Minister Prasert Bunchaisuk, Culture Minister Sonthaya Khunpluem, Permanent Secretary to Office of Prime Minister Thongthong Chandrangsu.
Deputy PM Phongthep stated at the opening of the meeting that as a consequence of the first meeting on January 16, several organizations had proposed national reform models. At the meeting today, the Government would propose 3 models: 1) a proposal of business organizations network, academia, community organizations and civil societies; 2) a proposal of the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB); and 3) a proposal of the Political Development Council. The 3 proposals are parts of the meeting resolutions of January 16, and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had assigned Deputy PM Phongthep and PM’s Office Minister Varathep to invite leaders and executives of political parties to exchange views on the national reform models, and Office of the Permanent Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Office would compile ideas and suggestions proposed by the political parties today for future reference on the national reform.
PM’s Office Minister Varathep thanked all representatives of the political parties for joining today’s meeting, and noted that a number of parties could not participate in the meeting because of their political campaigning activities outside of Bangkok, but were waiting to receive information on the resolutions of the meeting. The Government had opened a stage for the national reform even before the current protest and the dissolution of parliament, and still continued to do so even afterwards. There had been a request to expedite the national reform process, and considering that the Government is a stakeholder and might be criticized for being biased, PM Yingluck decided to involve all sectors in the process. According to PM’s Office Minister Varathep, PM Yingluck would like to join the meeting today, but with her other commitments awaiting she would just be keen to receive a report on the meeting later, and would do her best to provide support wherever possible.
Now that all agreed to push forward the national reform, it now came to the questions on how to implement, when, and what would be the organizational structure. The participants were asked to give comments on the proposed 3 models either at the meeting or by bringing back the documents to seek consensus among the party of its own.
The chairs, then, gave floor to leaders and executives of political parties to express comments and ideas that would lead to resolutions to the current conflict, and national reform, as well as creation of public participatory process. Gist as follows:
Most of the participants agreed to the implementation of national reform both in economic, social, and political aspects for the genuine interests of the people, and proposed economic reform to enable fair budget allocation and opportunities to the people throughout the country. At the same time, they all agreed to push forward the general election as scheduled and conduct national reform in parallel. Members of the reform council must be elected by the citizens from each province, but beforehand, the Government and the Election Commission must ensure that the upcoming election be held securely and in good order. Political reform would also have to be done to eliminate vote buying. Politicians must be upright, and political parties must really put their campaigned policies into actual practice.
The participants also came to terms on the establishment of the national reform council that members must come from representatives of all sectors, professions, and provinces within the legal framework. Professional groups are to select their representatives among themselves. Then, election will be held to pinpoint the top 200 to be members of the national reform council. The national reform council must be approved through the parliamentary process, and can appoint experts or working groups as advisers. Its main duty will be to prepare proposals on the national reform in various dimensions necessary to sustainable development of the country, and elimination of the current conflict. These proposals will, then, be submitted to the parliament for its approval. Any point related to the Constitutional amendment should go through the public hearing process in order to receive public approval.
The national reform council should have the working timeframe of 1 year after the general election. Then, the parliament should be dissolved to return power to the people in order to move forward with the approved national reform. Proposed issues for the national reform included electoral system, transparent selection process of political officials, supervision process of MP’s authorities, independent organizations and government offices, appointment of government officials, eradication of corruption and misconduct in political, business, and other sectors. Prosecution process for corruption cases must be fair and quick. Economic and social structure must accommodate fair distribution of resources in the society such as land reform, economic reform and education reform. Various form of public participatory process in politics must be encouraged.
In addition, mass media reform is proposed for fair and unprejudiced dissemination of information. Politicians must be role models. Voices of ordinary citizens should also be heard for the national reform.
Pheu Thai Party representative Phokin Phalakul proposed that an important or main duty of the subsequent Government should be the concrete implementation of national reform which should take 1-2 years to complete.
He also proposed 4 components of the national reform council, that is, 1) people sector 2) professional sector 3) academic sector, and 4) politic sector. Four preliminary goals for the national reform are 1) serious promotion of lawfulness and unity, and elimination of conflicts, 2) reform of politics, public administration and decentralization of power, 3) reform of justice system and independent entities, and 4) effective solutions to corruption.
Mr. Phokin Phalakul added that if all concerned political parties agreed with this broad and preliminary framework, statement of intent should be drafted for the signing of ratification, and for the agreement in pushing forward general election. After the election, no matter which political party will become the new government, all must join hands in realizing the national reform.
Deputy PM Phongthep concluded that the majority agreed with general election on February 2, 2014, which is in accordance with the Constitution. The Election Commission must, therefore, take responsibility in holding the fair and transparent election.
With regard to the proposal on the signing of ratification, a committee will be formed to draft the document. If all agree to the draft ratification, it will be signed by political parties to confirm political standpoint and the national reform.
Mr. Varathep Rattanakorn added at the end of the meeting that it seems general election and national reform would be implemented in parallel. However, they are two separate matters because even without the election, parliament dissolution or current protest, the Government still pushes forward the national as it has been initiated long before.
It is understood that each political party would need to discuss among its members for consensus before the signing of ratification. Therefore, he proposed that they meet again to finalize the matter before the early election on January 26, 2014.
Pheu Thai Party volunteered to lead the drafting of ratification. Signing of the ratification is expected to be held on January 24, 2014.