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ECONOMIC PLAN: NGOs escalate opposition to special-zone bill

Published on February 04, 2005

Government urged to revoke resolution amid fears it gives PM too much power

A coalition of academics, NGOs and civic associations yesterday issued statements opposing a plan to set up special economic zones around the country, arguing that the legislation would transfer the power of the people to only one man the prime minister.

The group demanded that the government revoke a Cabinet resolution on January 11 that approved in principle the draft bill on special economic zones. They vowed to obstruct the tabling of the bill for House deliberation before the new government is formed.

Rosanna Tositrakul, chairwoman of the Network against Corruption, encompassing 30 non-governmental organisations, said the realm cannot be separated into zones but the new bill would let the government declare any of the 76 provinces as a special economic zone that would be exempt from the law of the land.

The zones would be autonomous states with their own legal, executive and judicial branches, she said. The bill would also violate His Majesty the Kings authority over legislation.

She went on to say the bill would also let the government grant land to the private sector and open the door to foreigners to exploit the country. She said the bill covers up the fact that it aims to transfer the power of the public to a committee on special economic zones policy headed by the prime minister.

The power will be handed to the prime minister. If he wants anything, it will be according to his wishes. The government has declared its policy four years to repair and four years to rebuild but I believe it is going to be a four years to sell policy. The government will also claim that the people voted it back into office and it has the mandate to do that, she said.

This is like staging a silent coup through the democratic process. But the public still has time and power. We dare the Thai Rak Thai Party to state before Sundays election if it is going to go ahead with the bill, Rosanna said.

Rianchai Nicharan of the Tambon Administrative Organisation Association of Thailand said a caretaker government should not push such a bill through Parliament because it would greatly affect the public. We will move to oppose the bill till the end, he said.

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