BANGKOK — Top officials in Thailand’s military government have defended using the state budget to employ relatives after it emerged that fifty-seven members of the junta’s legislature have hired family members as personal aides.
A 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.
NLA chairman Pornpetch Wichitcholchai insisted yesterday that the practice is not corrupt, because no laws forbid it.
"The NLA regulations do not prohibit appointing children, wives, and relatives to serve as experts for the NLA members," Pornpetch said. "The regulation about the jobs' qualification merely states that they should have proper expertise, and that they must not have been charged with any crimes."
He added, "The NLA members may need to find someone they can trust as their aides to help with their work, so they appoint people close to them as the aides."
The NLA, which was appointed by the junta shortly after the coup in 22 May, has made rooting out corruption a top priority. Last month, the body voted to retroactively impeach former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra for failing to stop graft in her government’s rice policy.
Today 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."
The general continued, "The chairman of the NLA has already explained to you. Please listen to him about what is appropriate."
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