One year in the hot seat in Parliament
Today, it will be exactly one year since Somsak Kiatsuranont took up his post as House speaker and Parliament president. Plus, this past year has marked several milestones in the history of Thai politics, the most infamous of them being the day when chaos forced the Parliament police to beef up security in the chambers and stand guard at the Speaker's throne. The Nation's Khanittha Thepphajorn speaks to Somsak about the eventful year:
What are your thoughts on the problems that have occurred over the past year, especially the opposition's defiant gestures like flinging documents at your face?
I think politics is in a state of conflict, with massive divisions and polarisation. Hence, no matter who chairs the meeting, that person must face a lot of obstacles.
This is normal in a situation where politics is so polarised. However, we should follow the regulations. When I do that, some people like it and some don't. Those who like following regulations praise me, while those who don't, don't. It's basically like that.
Do you get any praise from the Pheu Thai Party?
If you consider what I said in that leaked voice clip of mine, it is clear how I do my job. That was me talking to people close to me. It's an internal matter, but it clearly showed that I am neutral. I did not take any orders from anybody.
In my opinion, when someone dislikes my work, that person will see me as being biased.
Simply put, if I had really received orders from someone, it was only about inconsequential issues.
As chief of the Legislative Branch, I would never exchange my honour and the dignity of the Legislative Branch for small orders. It would not be smart, would it? If anybody accuses me of taking orders from a certain person, then why would I be accepting proposals from the opposition leader [Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva], including his demand that the third reading on the charter amendment be delayed? Wouldn't you say that I have accepted orders from the opposition leader?
In practice, it is clear that I am straight and neutral and have not been taking orders from anybody.
Were you ever worried that you would be accused of being biased or taking orders from a certain person?
Certainly not! I was not affected. People across the country have seen my work, and I am welcome everywhere. If someone needs to change or improve, it's certainly not me.
Have you had to issue any additional new regulations for conduct during parliamentary meetings?
No. There are enough regulations already in place. Only the panel on ethics and morality is not ready. We will have the opposition and government MPs nominate members of the sub-committee from outside the Parliament, so decisions are unbiased and nobody tries to protect anybody. If the panel is set up smoothly, I believe everything will be all right.
Do you plan to change anything in the next year?
No, things will stay the same because everything is okay.
Do you have any ideas on the hot issues related to the charter amendment?
I have said all that I can say, the rest is up to the parliamentarians. The Parliament president does not have any power to say whether the motion should be withdrawn or not, that is up to the owners of the motion - the MPs. The decision was made by everybody, not just the Parliament president. I have made proposals, but it's up to them to decide if they agree with me.