Row over official spurs debate on the monarchy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 September, 2005, 12:00am

A political impasse over the replacement of Thailand's auditor-general, who is refusing to step down, has stirred debate over the powers of the nation's revered monarchy.

Last year, the Constitutional Court ruled that the selection of Khunying Jaruvan Maintaka as auditor-general in 2003 was illegal because the Senate had failed to consider other candidates.

Based on that decision, the Senate nominated a replacement, Visut Montriwat. But Mr Visut has not yet been approved by King Bhumibol Adulyadej since his nomination was forwarded to the palace on June 10. Thailand's 1997 constitution sets a 90-day deadline for royal assent of senior officials or the appointment is considered void.

Ms Jaruvan has said she will not step down until her royal appointment is taken away.

She had reportedly been investigating complaints over alleged corruption at Bangkok's new international airport, which has suffered repeated disruptions in the run-up to next year's delayed opening. Analysts speculate that Ms Jaruvan's probe of airport-related contracts may be one reason behind the drive by pro-government senators to unseat her.

'The Senate has been politicised and compromised. It's increasingly coming under [government] control and influence,' says Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University.

The row over the auditor-general has helped spark debate over the balance of power between the monarchy and other political forces.

MP Pramual Rujaneseri, whose new book Royal Power criticises Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, on Tuesday told a public forum on the monarchy at Thammasat University that the monarchy was a unique stabilising force in Thailand, not a 'rubber stamp' for decisions.