Opposition's concluding speech marred by protests
The opposition's concluding speech at the censure debate on Tuesday night was marred by frequent protests by government MPs, particularly when ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister and PM Yingluck Shinawatra were mentioned negatively.
Senior Democrat MP Jurin Laksanavisit, who is also the chief opposition whip, was responsible for making the concluding speech on the final day of the three-day debate that began on Sunday.
At the end of Jurin's speech about 10 minutes before midnight, House Speaker Somsak Kiartsuranond called the next meeting of the House of Representatives at 9.30 am on Wednesday to vote whether to support the opposition's no-confidence motion against the prime minister and three other Cabinet members.
The censure debate had to be completed by midnight, or the voting would have to be postponed by another day. The end of the current House session has been scheduled for Thursday.
Jurin began his concluding speech shortly after 9 pm. Before he took the floor, Yingluck spent less than 10 minutes reading from a note to dismiss the opposition's allegations against her. She also called for harmony between the opposition and the government.
Jurin said that Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, one of the Cabinet members targeted in the grilling, failed to have the Royal Thai Police revoke Thaksin's rank of police lieutenant colonel although the ex-premier had been sentenced to two years in jail. The Democrat noted that just recently, the police force issued an order for police officers sentenced to imprisonment to see their ranks removed.
Many MPs from the ruling Pheu Thai Party rose to protest Jurin, saying that he went beyond the scope of censure motion. Following repeated protests, Jurin insisted that he was within the scope of the motion. He simply gave some examples to support the opposition's allegations and did not have to repeat the phrases or sentences used by his fellow opposition MPs.
Jurin's speech also covered allegations against Defence Minister Sukampol Suwannatat and Deputy Interior Minister Chatt Kuladilok, but Pheu Thai MPs rarely protested him.
There were more protests when Jurin made allegations against Yingluck. The meeting chairs had to intervene from time to time, trying to calm down the protesting government MPs. There were also exchanges of arguments when some Democrat MPs protested those government MPs, accusing them of trying to waste the time.
Jurin said that Yingluck still had failed to keep many of her election campaign promises but that she acted quickly when it was about the interest of her family members and cohorts. He pointed to the Thai government's request for Japan to issue an entry visa to Thaksin and the Foreign Ministry's issuance of a new passport to Thaksin, just weeks after the prime minister assumed office.
He said that Yingluck rarely explained against the opposition allegations during the three days of censure debate. "The prime minister is trying to stay afloat and duck the responsibility," he said.
Jurin also accused the prime minister of being insincere in tackling corruption. He pointed to irregularities in the government's rice price-pledging programme involving certain government figures.
The Democrat MP said that despite claims by certain politicians in power about attempts to bring down the government, "it is the prime minister's causes of decline that will actually lead to the government's demise". He pointed to her alleged tolerance to corruption, alleged lack of maturity as a leader, and alleged failure to prevent intervention into the government affairs.
"The country is not a company. You should overcome your personal and family interest, and instead serve the entire country, or the country will see another round of conflict," he said.
"The behaviour of the prime minister and the government will lead to the government's downfall. Nobody else will do it."
Jurin also asked the prime minister whether she had completely kept her promises made while leading her Cabinet to swear in before His Majesty the King.
Before taking office, Cabinet members are required by the Constitution to vow to be loyal to the King, to honestly perform their duties in the interests of the country and the people, and to uphold and observe the Constitution.