Thailand junta decries planned two-year ban from politics for its members

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Members of Thailand's junta, which took over the country after last May's military coup, on Friday dismissed a suggestion that they should be banned from politics for two years to prevent them from holding on to power.

A panel appointed by the military government to draft a new Constitution proposed the ban for members of five bodies, including the junta, known as the 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," panel chairman Jate Thonavanik told reporters.

The Constitution Drafting Committee includes academics, lawyers and former lawmakers hand-picked by the junta last year. Many of them are perceived to be pro-establishment. The panel will decide on Friday whether to include the ban in the draft charter.

Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan said he was strongly against the plan. "If there is a ban for two years, there will be nothing left and nobody able to work," Mr Prawit told reporters. "Those who want to ban ... should re-consider."

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who as army chief led the May coup, called the proposal "unnecessary".

Criticism of the draft Constitution has been growing. Among the more contentious points is a proposal to make the 200-member Upper House Senate unelected.

Under the draft, the prime minister will also not have to be an elected lawmaker, changes critics say are designed to give voters less power.

The army seized power to restore order after months of street protests. It tore up a 2007 Constitution and rolled out an interim Constitution that gives the military sweeping powers.