Thai junta’s lawmakers see ‘nothing wrong’ with hiring family members

Originally published at Siam Voices on March 2, 2015

Dozens of Thailand’s lawmakers have employed their family members with state money and see nothing wrong with that, while they claim to eradicate exactly that kind of behavior out of Thai politics.

The Thai military junta pledged to do everything better and cleaner than their politician counterparts when they executed their hostile takeover of powers in a coup last year. The mindset of them and their allies is that Thai politics is so tainted with corruption it is incapable of redeeming itself, hence the indefinite suspension of electoral democracy and an almost crusade-like campaign to “eradicate” corruption from Thai politics. In order to achieve this, the junta has created fully appointed government bodies that have been busy “reforming” the country and also claim to adhere to a very high ethical standard.

And then this happens:

report published by the investigative newsite Isra News revealed that 57 lawmakers in the 220-member National Legislative Assembly (NLA) have hired their own spouses, siblings, children, and cousins as staff.

Salaries for the aides range from 15,000 – 24,000 baht per month. The positions awarded to relatives include legislative specialists, who must hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, experts, who need at least three years of relevant work experience, and assistants, who must be at least 18 years old.

Thai Government Defends Hiring Relatives“, Khaosod English, February 28, 2015

For example, Nipon Narapitakkul has appointed his wife, daughter and son to help with his work while Adm Taratorn Kajitsuwan appointed his wife and daughter.

As the regulation states that one person can take only one position at a time, Adm Taratorn appointed his wife three times to different positions, with the latest one as personal specialist, effective on Jan 1, 2015.

57 lawmakers name kin as aides“, Bangkok Post, February 27, 2015

This is rather embarrassing for these people since they are supposed to be much, much better than your regular (elected) politicians. In fact, it is the same political camp – though a different government body (the Constitutional Drafting Committee) – that has recently floated the proposal to have an “indirectly elected” Senate that is essentially nothing but a fully appointed one, as we have deconstructed last week.

It is also the same political camp that have been vocally against the constitutional amendments by the government of then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (ironically the younger sister of former Premier Thaksin) that would have not only made the Senate a fully elected one, but also done away with the one term-limits and (surprise!) direct relatives of politicians to run for office – a regulation previously set by the 2007 Constitution after the previous military coup of 2006! The opponents were that vocal, so much so that they dragged the case to the Constitutional Court and won.

So, how are the current military government and its lawmakers reacting? Like nothing has happened apparently:

National Legislative Assembly President Pornpetch Wichitcholchai said the regulations did not prohibit NLA members from appointing their spouses and children as their helpers, and thus making them eligible for salaries from the state.

When asked whether the practice was appropriate, Pornpetch said the NLA simply wanted to have helpers whom they could trust and the practice has been done earlier.

President says NLA members can hire spouses, children as helpers“, The Nation, February 27, 2015

Today [Saturday] a member of the ruling military junta also came out to defend the practice.

“I share the same view as Mr. Pornpetch. They didn’t break any laws,” said army chief and junta member Gen. Udomdet Sitabutr. “Your relatives have knowledge and expertise, and be qualified for the jobs. This is personal matter, and it is in accordance with the regulations about what is prohibited and what is not prohibited.”

Thai Government Defends Hiring Relatives“, Khaosod English, February 28, 2015

And of course, the junta leader and Prime Minister also chimed in on this as well, saying that

พล.อ.ประยุทธ์ จันทร์โอชา นายกรัฐมนตรี (…) ว่า (…) อย่าไปพันกันกับเรื่องสภาผัว-สภาเมีย เพราะมันคนละสมัย ครั้งนั้นก็บอกว่ากฎหมายไม่ได้ห้าม ครั้งนี้ก็เหมือนกัน (…)

Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha (…) said that (…) this shouldn’t be confused for the house-wife Senate [as mentioned above] because that was at a different time and back then it wasn’t illegal either, as it is this time (…).

มีเหตุผลความจำเป็นหรือไม่ หรืออาจจะเขียนกฎหมายในรัฐธรรมนูญหรือระเบียบเพื่อระบุว่ากลไกเหล่านี้จะต้องไม่มีครอบครัวซึ่งจะเขียนได้หรือไม่ตนก็ไม่ทราบ (…) เพราะทุกคนก็ต้องการประชาธิปไตยอีกทั้งเป็นเรื่องส่วนบุคคลด้วย เรื่องนี้คงต้องพูดด้วยกฎหมาย แต่ถ้าถามตนว่าถูกหรือไม่ ตนไม่ขอตอบ

“Whether or not it is necessary to write in the constitution or into law to specify that there can be no family members [being employed] I don’t know, (…) because everybody needs democracy, but it is also a personal matter. This matter has to be addressed by law but if you ask me if it’s right or wrong, I prefer not to answer.

นายกฯยันสนช.ตั้งลูก เมีย ญาติเป็นที่ปรึกษาได้ ไม่ผิดกม.“, Krungthep Turakij, March 1, 2015

The problem in this obvious case of nepotism is not so much whether or not it is illegal (it isn’t, but then again it’s the junta currently making up their own new rules), but rather that it is highly unethical, especially because this government and its fully-appointed bodies claims to adhere itself to a much higher ethical standard.

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