Govt Explains Abrupt Transfer of 6 Education Officials

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha at Command and General Staff College in Bangkok, 3 April 2015.

BANGKOK – Government officials say the junta’s recent transfer of six Ministry of Education officials was an effort to encourage reforms within the department.

Junta chairman Gen. Prayuth invoked Article 44 of the interim charter, which allows him to unilaterally intervene in national affairs, to transfer the six officials on 17 April. The order came with a brief statement describing the transfers as a measure to "increase efficiency and appropriateness in the education reforms and bureaucratic administration within the Ministry of Education."

Deputy Prime Minister Yongyuth Yutthawong told reporters yesterday that the Gen. Prayuth ordered the transfer because he believes the new positions are more suitable for the officials. 

Maj.Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd, a spokesperson of the military government, echoed Yongyuth's remark in a press conference later on the same day.

"Gen. Prayuth has many ideas for reforms, including in the field of education," Maj.Gen. Sansern said. "It is necessary to adjust the personnel to fit with their knowledge and ability. As for the order that came out [on 17 April] … we adjusted those personnel to work in jobs that they are good at, at the level of their job maturity."

He continued, "If the transfer was ordered when the junta first came to [power], it might have been seen as an attempt to interfere, so we waited for the time to pass for six months before we do it, because Gen. Prayuth sees that if we adjust personnel to fit with their ability and knowledge, it will speed up reform in the national education."

Article 44 of the interim charter states that chairman of the junta, known formally as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), can take any action to "suppress or disrupt" threats to the public order, the economy, and the monarchy. Any order Gen. Prayuth issues through Article 44 will be deemed legal and binding, the clause states.

The interim charter was enacted shortly after Gen. Prayuth seized power from an elected government in May 2014. The general, who also became Prime Minister in August 2014, has said that Article 44 will only be activated to retain key powers granted under martial law and “swiftly solve national problems.”

Immediately after repealing martial law on 1 April, Gen. Prayuth used Article 44 to maintain soldiers’ power to search properties and detain individuals without court warrants. 

The junta chairman also issued another order under Article 44 that suspended three more officials in the Ministry of Education from their posts. Maj.Gen. Sansern said the suspension order is related to an ongoing investigation into potential corruption in the Ministry. "We ordered related individuals to suspend their duty, so that the investigation will be efficient," Maj.Gen. Sansern explained. 

Asked whether Gen. Prayuth will issue similar transfer and suspension orders for other Ministries, the spokesperson said each Minister may request the junta chairman to do so, if necessary.

"Every Ministry receives policy from the Prime Minister. If they run into any obstacles, they have to solve it," Maj.Gen. Sansern told reporters. "If they cannot, it is within the power of the Minister to make the decision. I insist that Gen. Prayuth will use his power in Article 44 in a constructive way. We do not transfer or appoint anyone out of political basis. We never think about politics. We only think about cause and effect of the reforms."

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