House erupts in chaos over bills
The worst chaos in the history of Thai Parliament took place yesterday during a House of Representatives meeting to discuss whether the bills of reconciliation should be moved up the agenda for today's debate.Commotion began shortly after House Speaker Somsak Kiartsuranond, following three hours of heated debate, called for a vote to decide on whether deliberation on the bills should begin today, despite protests from opposition Democrat MPs who wanted the issue to be discussed further.
A group of Democrat MPs surrounded Somsak and tried to pull him out of his seat, while some started miming the Nazi salute in front of him. A confrontation ensued when a group of MPs from the ruling Pheu Thai Party came forward to protect Somsak, their party colleague.
Some 30 security officers gathered later to guard the Speaker, who had turned pale and was obviously shaken up after the 10-minute commotion. He then called for a 15-minute break.
During the break, Democrat MP Rangsima Rodrassamee tried to remove the chairman's chair, but was stopped by other female MPs of the ruling Pheu Thai Party.
Some witnesses said they saw Rangsima slap Pheu Thai MP Khattiyaa Sawasdiphol in the face during their tussle for the Speaker's seat. However, both women denied the report, though Rangsima later told the pro-Democrat Blue Sky Channel television station that her hand might have touched Khattiyaa's face during the tussle. However, Khattiyaa tweeted that she had not been slapped.
Following the chaos, the chairman decided to adjourn the House meeting until this morning, so there was no voting yesterday.
Four reconciliation bills have been submitted separately for parliamentary deliberation by General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, chairman of the House committee on national reconciliation, and three groups of Pheu Thai MPs, including those who are red-shirt leaders.
Senator Kamnoon Sitthisamarn said yesterday that it looked like Somsak was unable to control his meetings, as evidenced by last night's chaos.
"There's no faith left in him. It came to the lowest point for him," he said, adding that Somsak lacked flexibility when compared to his recent predecessors.
The Democrats plan to petition the Senate speaker today for impeachment of Somsak, who they accuse of being biased while performing his duty as meeting chair, party MP Satit Wongnongtaey said.
Earlier yesterday, government and opposition MPs were engaged in a heated exchange to support their stance on whether the debate on the reconciliation bills should or should not be moved up the agenda.
Democrat MPs booed when some Pheu Thai MPs spoke in support of an early debate of the bills, and at one point, Pheu Thai MP Pracha Prasopdee got so irritated with the booing that he started using expletives.
In an earlier development, the coalition whips yesterday decided to put the draft bill on reconciliation on the fast track, paving the way for today's debate on granting amnesty to those involved in political disturbances from 2005 to 2010, including fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The whips' decision took place hours before the House convened its afternoon session to discuss the handling of the bill. The coalition appeared in defiance of the People's Alliance for Democracy, which led a rally yesterday to oppose the plan to grant amnesty.