January 09, 2014 00:00 By PRAVIT ROJANAPHRUK,
A FORMER PHEU Thai MP accused of illegally voting to pass the Bt2-trillion loan bill insisted in a Constitutional Court's hearing the MP identification cards he used for the vote were all his - including some spares after some of the cards failed to func
The opposition told the court that such a scenario was not possible.
The court yesterday began hearing legal arguments on whether the passage of the Bt2-trillion loan bill was constitutional. The court will hold the next hearing on January 15.
It started looking first into the passage of the bill process before examining the bill’s content.
Former Democrat MP Rangsima Rodrasamee submitted a video clip of Pheu Thai MP Narisorn Thongtirach allegedly voting several times using a number of MPs’ identification cards. Rangsima said the clip was recorded during voting on the second reading of the law.
Narisorn admitted he was in the video but said he carried his MP identification card and back-up cards, as he often forgot his cards. He inserted the cards and changed them after some cards failed to function. Democrat Party leader and former opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said what Narisorn had told the court was untrue. Each MP could have only one identification card and a spare card in case they forgot to bring or lost a card. The spare card also looked different from the main card and a new card issued would have a different serial number.
Moreover, the machine would count only one vote for each MP using the card, Abhisit said.
Constitutional Court judges took turns asking two expert witnesses whether the proposed Bt2-trillion loan over a period of seven years would be more prone to corruption.
They did not receive an assurance that there would be no corruption, but an answer to the effect that it would not pose a higher risk of corruption.
Judge Jaran Pukditanakul asked the two witnesses time and again whether the special arrangement of the infrastructure loan posed a higher risk of corruption.
“Is the Finance Ministry confident that it can prevent corruption? Corruption doesn’t occur from below but from ‘policy corruption’,” the judge said.
Jurarat Suteetorn, director of the Public Debt Management Office at the Finance Ministry, did not answer the question but kept smiling. Jurarat earlier told Jaran however that the passing of a Royal Act to seek the Bt2-trillion loan would not in itself increase or reduce the chance of corruption. It will, however, reduce the annual budget deficit, as it will not appear on the balance sheet of the annual budget, said Jurarat.
Another judge asked if any studies had been made regarding the possible negative impact of the project. Jurarat said they had been, adding that the positive impact outweighed the negative impact.
The deputy director of the Budget Bureau, Chanun Puttamillionpratheap, was the second expert witness to say that seeking a special loan is nothing special and that things have been carefully thought out.
Caretaker Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt was later yesterday summoned by court to present the reasons why the mega-project is needed.
Chadchart said Thailand’s transport infrastructure is way behind neighbouring countries like Singapore and Malaysia, although Thailand’s geographical location is naturally at the intersection of Asean.
Hi-speed and twin-track train development will enable the Kingdom to become less reliant on cars and consume less petrol, improve the environment and spur development in rural areas.
Singapore ranked number eight in the world for infrastructure while Malaysia is at number 16. Thailand is at number 49, however, said Chadchart, and could fall behind Indonesia and the Philippines if the country doesn’t invest.