August 19, 2014 01:00
By Praphan Jindalertudomdee
Yesterday was an unusually quiet day at Parliament despite the National Legislative Assembly deliberating the 2015 budget bill.
It was the first time a budget bill had been proposed to Parliament by a junta chief due to the absence of a prime minister.
Before the meeting started, political observers wondered what National Council for Peace and Order chief Prayuth Chan-ocha and his subordinate would wear.
Instead of his usual Army uniform, Prayuth wore a dark suit – the first time he has appeared in public out of uniform since the military seized power on May 22. The other NCPO members also wore suits.
They may be aware that wearing uniforms wouldn’t go well in Parliament.
Everything outside and inside the chamber seemed in order.
Unlike normal parliamentary sessions, the NLA and ruling junta members did not have many accompanying aides or guards. There were no traffic or parking problems.
Reporters were banned from entering the usual areas where interviews with politicians took place. Instead, a podium was set up for NLA members in a hall on the first floor and they were interviewed there.
The members were punctual, arriving at Parliament by 10am as scheduled. Seventeen of them were asked to debate the budget bill and were each given 10 minutes to do so. No military officer was part of the debate.
The meeting functioned as if it were being regulated according to Army regulations. There were no protests from NLA members and no one chatted on a mobile phone, texted, or spoke to a colleague.
They listened attentively to the junta chief while he was proposing the bill.
During his speech, Prayuth appeared like a teacher giving a lecture to students.
“Thai people are capable. Many of them are nearly clever but others are not so smart. We need to help each other,” he said. “Does anyone have any problems? Does anyone disapprove [of the bill]?”
The members then voted unanimously to approve it.
Although Prayuth looked very serious, he was not without a sense of humour.
He apologised to the members for speaking loudly, joking that he felt anxious and had had a stomach ache since the morning.
When Prayuth, who is expected to be elected prime minister by the NLA on Thursday, talked about that position he joked: “Don’t be worried who will become PM. You [the NLA] have to scrutinise the PM to make sure that he will perform well.
“Or will anyone here apply for the post? You can do it now.”