August 20, 2014 01:00
By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
Nobody expects the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to be anymore than a rubber stamp in endorsing junta-guided laws and directives. However, it's time for the lawmakers to show that they have enough courage to lay the foundation for the country's futu
Although it is wrong to expect the military-dominated assembly to perform as Thailand’s real legislative branch, the NLA’s first session to consider the budget bill has already proved that it is bad for the Kingdom to have such a body.
Perhaps it would be better, as well as save time and money, if the junta issued all the laws and directives itself. After all, the junta has been putting in place many laws and regulations since it took over on May 22.
So, what really is the point of using the taxpayers’ money to pay some 200 people to simply raise their hands and agree to all junta proposals?
Of the 197 members in the assembly, only 17 reserved their right to speak on the budget bill in the first reading on Monday – and none of the 17 hailed from the military. As for the so-called debate, all the NLA members did was to praise or applaud the junta or express their gratitude to the paramount leader for choosing them to sit in this honourable post.
It is not true that Thai military officers do not like speaking in public, especially since junta chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha spent more than an hour proposing the bill and concluding his speech.
Other military officers should certainly have the same ability.
The 2015 budget bill is very important as the funds need to be spent on several things, especially on stimulating the economy, which has slowed down after the political crisis and coup. Taxpayers who pay for the budget badly need to know how their money will be spent. The lawmakers need to debate on all points and closely scrutinise all proposed projects. It is the people’s money, not General Prayuth’s personal funds.
Of course, the NLA members were not elected by the taxpayers, but this does not mean that these so-called lawmakers are not accountable for some of the funds allocated for their salaries and allowances. People have already lost their right to vote, and it would be a greater loss if none of the lawmakers do their job correctly.
Elected lawmakers may not be perfect. Some might be corrupt, while some may be incapable of doing their jobs, but many of them can perform their duty in Parliament when it comes to checking on the executive branch. Every lawmaker knows the importance of the budget bill and they never let it pass through Parliament easily. As lawmakers and representatives of the people, they are required to debate on the budget expenditure and tell the people if they find any irregularities. Even though some of these elected lawmakers may speak with ill-intent, but at least the public will know.
In comparison, the military-sponsored lawmakers sat in the chamber but had no courage to speak up. Perhaps they didn’t realise that poor performance in the first session will lead to poorer function in the future. Also, they cannot be relied upon to consider laws that will lay the foundation for a more secure future.
Besides, if the junta’s handpicked lawmakers perform in this manner, it will also be difficult to count on the National Reform Council. After all, how can one guarantee that it will not be another rubber stamp for the junta?