Thai constitution panel seeks two-year political ban for junta members

Thai Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks at a meeting to discuss the 2015 national budget, at the Army Club in Bangkok June 13, 2014. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha (Reuters)

BANGKOK (Reuters) - A panel appointed by Thailand's military government to draft a new constitution has proposed a two-year political ban for junta members to prevent them "hogging power", the chairman said on Thursday. The army seized power on May 22 in a bid to restore order after months of street protests and political infighting in which nearly 30 people were killed. The ban would take effect for members of the so-called National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). "We will recommend that they are not allowed to enter politics for two years after the new constitution is endorsed because we are afraid about power hogging and conflicts of interest," Jate Thonavanik, chairman of the panel, told reporters. Some members of the junta-appointed interim parliament, or National Legislative Assembly, and National Reform Council (NRC) oppose the idea. "Those drafting the constitution will need to have a good reason for the ban," said NRC member Somchai Sawaengkarn. The 36-member charter committee began work on a new constitution in November after the previous one was torn up. Some say the constitution is aimed at preventing ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his allies, which have won every election since 2001, from returning to power. The protests were the latest chapter in a decade of political tumult - much of it centered on Thaksin, whose policies endeared him to the rural and urban poor but made him unpopular with the Bangkok-based royalist and military establishment. The junta has said a general election will take place in 2016. (Reporting by Aukkarapon Niyomyat; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Nick Macfie)