PM says Parliament debate on Nasa request to go ahead despite cancellation
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said yesterday that the proposed parliamentary debate on Nasa's request for use of the U-tapao Airport for a climate study would go ahead despite the US agency calling off its mission after a delay in Thailand's approval.She said the Cabinet had made its decision for the debate and it would not be easy to change a Cabinet resolution.
"We will have to abide by the Cabinet resolution. I can't on my own change a Cabinet resolution," Yingluck said, adding that the Cabinet wanted to allow parliamentary scrutiny in national |interest.
Parliament is scheduled to debate the request by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration when the next House session begins on August 1.
Nasa had announced that it had to call off the airborne science mission planned for Southeast Asia this year because of the absence of necessary approvals by regional authorities in the time frame necessary to support the mission.
The prime minister said yesterday that it was likely the result of the parliamentary debate would be used for a future Cabinet decision if Nasa makes a request again next year for study over Thailand's airspace. "We will see if approval requires only a Cabinet decision or a green light by Parliament," she added.
The Cabinet had deferred its decision on the matter after mounting opposition. Critics suspected questionable deals involving ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is Yingluck's elder brother, in the negotiation over the Nasa project.
Yingluck yesterday avoided a reporter's question whether this matter should be regarded as a lesson for the government to deal with similar projects in the future to prevent loss of benefit for the country.
Deputy Prime Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha said he saw no need now for the parliamentary debate on the project after Nasa had cancelled its plan for this year.
He said it would be pointless for Parliament to debate the issue, as it remained unclear whether the US agency would make the same request next year.
Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of Chulalongkorn University's Institute of Security and International Studies, said he had learned from a high-ranking American official that US President Barack Obama had cancelled his plan for a trip to Thailand after his participation in the East Asian Summit in Cambodia in November. He pointed to a possible connection between the president's decision and the delay in Thailand's approval for the Nasa project, leading to its cancellation.
The academic said the cancellation of Obama's trip would adversely affect Thai-US relations and cooperation.
Thai Ambassador to the US Chaiyong Satjipanon said there was no official announcement yet as to whether Obama would cancel his trip to Thailand. He said the US leader would have a tight schedule during the time when he would also be involved in campaigning for the US presidential election. ??be over by then??
Foreign Ministry spokesman Thanee Thongpakdee said ties between Thailand and the United States remained close despite the problems over the Nasa project. He said Washington respected the Thai government's decision.
Regarding a trip by the US president to Thailand, he said discussions were under way to determine the proper time.