Via e-mail is a English translation of the PM’s statement on the National Reform Council which she has just proposed (all highlighting is that by BP):

Amid the ongoing political conflict, I would like to express my gratitude to academicians, businessmen, and fellow citizens from various sectors who wish well for the country and have given opinions in order to find a resolution out of the present conflict cycle for our beloved country.

From different discussion forums, seminars or various opinions expressed through mass media during the previous two weeks, I gathered that most do share similar opinions, particularly on public participation in making political decisions, the inspection of the use of governmental power at all levels, strengthening the political system and political development, and protection of democratic system under constitutional monarchy.

In various reform forums, an idea of establishing a body for national reform has been proposed which could be carried out in parallel with the general election to be held on February 2, 2014, as scheduled in the Royal Decree.

I fully agree that it is now time to develop a mechanism to push forward and mobilize national reform. I, therefore, would like to propose to establish a forum so called “National Reform Council”.

As to who will become members of the National Reform Council, I would like to affirm that the National Reform Council is not a government’s forum. And if parties agree, the government will only establish the council by an order of the Prime Minister’s Office and will be acknowledged by the Cabinet to ensure that the process can begin immediately.

The National Reform Council will be a genuine council of the people’s representatives. Selection of members of the National Reform Council will begin with the recruitment of 2,000 representatives from various professions. Then, the 2,000 representatives will select 499 members of the National Reform Council.

Qualifications, criteria, application method, recruitment and appointment of representatives of professional groups, as well as selection of members of the National Reform Council will be determined by a commission comprising qualified and knowledgeable persons comprising of the following members:

1. The Supreme Commander of the Royal Thai Armed Forces or a representative of the Supreme Commander of the Royal Thai Armed Forces which may be either the Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai Army, the Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai Navy, or the Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai Air Force
2. Two Permanent Secretary-level persons nominated from the meeting body of permanent secretaries of the ministries and head of agencies.
3. The Secretary General of the National Economic and Social Development Board.
4. One university president nominated from the meeting body of the Council of University Presidents of Thailand.
5. Chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce or representative.
6. Chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries or representative.
7. Chairman of the Thai Bankers’ Association or representative.
8. The Chairperson and two experts will be nominated by the above commission members.

This committee, thus, will comprised of 11 members.

The responsibilities of the National Reform Council are:
1. To study and prepare proposals for amendment of the Constitution, which may include preparation of draft amendment of the Constitution.

2. To study and prepare proposals for the national economic and social restructuring, and to study and prepare proposals on people’s participation in public administration.

3. To study and prepare proposals for amendment or abrogation of law, rules, regulations or commands in order to ensure fairness and transparency of elections in every level, selection and appointment of persons for various positions, exercise of government authority, and inspection of government’s use of power.

4. To study and prepare proposals for prevention and suppression of corruptions and misconducts in public agencies, both of political officials and permanent officials of state agencies.

5. To study and prepare proposals for improvement of decentralization of power, knowledge promotion on laws, preparing and strengthening of communities, regulation structure of state administration in all levels, improvement of budget system and procedures, and human resources management in public sector.

Once the National Reform Council’s work on one of the above points is done, the National Reform Council must submit a report to the Prime Minister, and publicly disclose the report in order for the subsequent implementations of concerned parties. The time frame of the process will be determined by the National Reform Council.

As for the concern on continuity of National Reform after the general election on February 2, 2014 and after the assumption of the new Government, there will be stipulation that once the new Cabinet assumes the office, Secretary-General to the Cabinet must present the Prime minister and the Cabinet for their approval of the implementation of the above based on the intent and direction approved by all parties.

What I have said is a format aiming for exchange of discussions and dialogues from every sector. The Government will compile comments and suggestions for further improvement and issuance of command before the end of this year

I would like to invite all to be aware of the mission on national reform, which is a duty of every Thai citizen. This mission is for the sake of all Thai citizens’ happiness, benefits, peacefulness, reconciliation, unity, and prosperity, as well as for our future posterity.

BP:

A. This comes after Suthep’s People Assembly proposal of up to 400 members with 300 coming from professional groups and 100 being selected by the PDRC. The qualifications are that they are not members of political parties, not executives of political parties, and cannot be a political office holder for at least 5 years. For further details, see this post.

Suthep is not the only person to propose a People’s Assembly. The Bangkok Post:

The army chief stressed his assembly would bear little resemblance to the “people’s council” proposed by People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protest group leader Suthep Thaugsuban.

“The people’s assembly must not be organised or sponsored by any conflicting group, as it would not be accepted by the other side,” he said.

strong>”It must be from a neutral group and comprise non-core representatives of all colours, and all colour leaders must be excluded.”

Gen Prayuth was speaking after a meeting yesterday of the Defence Council, chaired by caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who doubles as caretaker Defence Minister.

Gen Prayuth did not offer specific details on what his proposed assembly would look like.

He conceded he was unsure about who would form the “neutral group” in his assembly plan and would not say whether it should be formed before or after the Feb 2.

Also, the Bangkok Post the other day:

Seven private sector organisations have supported the issuing of an executive decree for the immediate establishment of a reform organisation ahead of the election, with a timeframe of one year to complete the task and a legal binding on the next government.

In a joint statement on Monday after discussions, they urged all parties to participate in the reform process, and asked politicians and rival political parties to realise the damage being caused to the country, and turn to negotiation based on the country’s best interests to help Thailand emerge from this political crisis.

The seven organisations that signed the statement are the Board of Trade of Thailand, Federation of Thai Industries, Thai Bankers Association, Tourism Council of Thailand, Stock Exchange of Thailand, Federation of Thai Capital Market Organisations and the Thai Listed Companies Association.

After their second forum on Monday morning they issued their statement, urging the caretaker government to issue an executive decree on national reform.

Any elected government must commit to supporting the reforms that would be proposed by the reform organisation within one year of its appointment, and in the meantime administer the country in a way to prevent any damage to development, the statement said.

BP: This is essentially the government response to Suthep’s proposal and that of Prayuth and the private sector organizations.

B. On the specifics, essentially the government has outsourced to the 11 member committee on who will be qualified to be the representatives from the various professions. No doubt this hands-off approach is to put responsibility on this committee and not the government. The committee will hardly be dominated by pro-government people, but with so much power this committee will have to be careful what they come up with.

The Bangkok Post‘s military beat reporter Wassana tweets that the PM had consulted with the Supreme Commander and military before the announcement. Will the people actually join the committee?  It may more depend on how many reject and then who they propose should replace them….

C. Key PDRC member Suriyasai (former PAD leader) tweeted:

Translation by BP: Yingluck’s Reform Council has the duty only for studying, no power, buying time, playing acrobats [meaning similar playing a game to deceive someone], getting attention. At the end, [they] will amend the constitution, consolidating power the same as before!

BP: Will the PDRC respond similarly? Key will be, how the Democrats respond too? It is not too late for them to contest the election… Will they offer a counter-proposal?

Although, Suriyasai is correct what he says about the council not having power – they are not a legislative body – and the constitution would need to be changed for any council to have power so they are a council who will make proposals only. Parliament will need to amend the constitution to implement the reforms OR amend the constitution to allow for a referendum (the latter is much more likely). They are an unelected body, but if their reforms are broadly accepted then pressure will come on the government to implement them as Yingluck set up the Council in the first place….