Friday, October 19, 2012

Back to shorter headmen terms?

In 1999, the 10th amendment of the Local Administration Act of 1914 changed the terms of village and subdistrict headmen drastically. Until then, once a headman was elected he stayed in office until he (or she) reached the retirement age of 60, died or resigned, or did perform so badly in his job that the province governor removed him from his post. However starting in 1999, the headmen had to stand for re-election every five year, including those who were elected for a lifetime term before.

Amendment 11 in 2008 did revert this change and made the headmen again elected for a lifetime term. Interestingly, both these drastic changes were done by Democrat-led governments.

Now it seems Amendment 13 (Amendment 12 from 2009 kept headmen in office within town and city municipalities) is in the parliamentary process, and with that amendment the reversion will be reverted, thus five year terms will be re-introduced, and obviously creating fury among the headmen.
Some 400 kamnan and village headmen staged a brief rally at Parliament yesterday while lodging a petition calling for the legislature to drop a draft bill on local administration.
Coalition and opposition MPs agreed to initiate the bill after a public hearing, which showed that people wanted to elect their local chiefs, he said.
The draft provisions include a clause for local residents to elect their kamnan to serve a five-year term, he said, but there was no cap on terms served if re-elected.
Village headmen would also be elected officials, he added.
Under the draft, kamnan and village headmen would not be subject to mandatory retirement at the age of 60. In a transitional clause, incumbent kamnan and village headmen would be allowed to remain in office until retirement at 60 [Bolding added]. The draft would apply to their successors, who would have to be elected.
The Nation, Kamnan protest over Local Administration Bill, October 10 2012
While it is a return to the old system, the transitory clause makes this draft a sham - since the previous amendment almost all five year terms had expired and an election for a lifetime term was held already, thus it is certainly not what the people in the public hearing requested.

In my opinion, a lifetime term is an anachronism, which was justified in the past when it was difficult to organize local elections, but nowadays with easy travel and communication no reason remains why to stick to undemocratic lifetime terms. Especially since electoral fraud is still common in Thailand, a five year term give the local people the chance to correct their wrong decision influenced by money when the headman did not perform in office to their satisfaction. Right now, a headman has to buy his election into office just once, and then such needs to make sure any misdeeds in office aren't bad enough to get the governor's attention.

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