Reconciliation report sparks House turmoil

national March 28, 2012 00:00

By The Nation

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Democrats put up strong resistance against early deliberation of 'peace' plan

Turmoil rocked the House of Representatives yesterday as the opposition Democrats put up tough resistance to the controversial reconciliation report, which had been tabled for deliberation.

 After four hours of high tension, the House of Representatives voted 348-162 to begin disscussion on the controversial reconciliation report. 
The Democrats insisted before the vote that the report should not be deliberated because it had not been properly approved by the ad hoc House committee chaired by ex-coup leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin.
In a session marred by boos and protests, House Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont tried in vain to call a vote to clear the way for deliberation. His attempts led to more boos and protests.
The Democrats focused their attacks on Sonthi, who was ironically defended by the ruling Pheu Thai Party’s MPs throughout yesterday’s turmoil. The opposition MPs repeatedly asked him to tell the House on the record that the report had received his ad hoc committee’s proper approval.
The departure of nine Democrat MPs from the House committee on reconciliation will have no impact on the legislative process to mend fences, members of the panel’s majority said yesterday. Sonthi said he did not think the resignations by committee members of the opposition party would affect its work, because it had completed its mission. He said the committee would next submit its report to Parliament for deliberation.
Coalition chief whip Udomdej Rattanasatien said yesterday: “Recon-ciliation will move forward.” 
Udomdej said the nine Democrats resigned after the House of Representatives committee had completed its report within the 150-day deadline. Furthermore, the report was submitted for House deliberation, he added.
Yesterday’s House-Senate session was to be a non-voting meeting giving the green light to the House to debate the reconciliation measures as per the committee’s report, he said.
Since the current parliamentary session is restricted to enacting laws, the House needs endorsement from the Senate if it is to debate a non-legislative issue, such as reconciliation.
The nine Democrat MPs on the House committee on national reconciliation yesterday submitted their resignations to the panel’s chairman at the Parliament building, after a disagreement over its report to be forwarded to Parliament. The Democrats wanted the committee to review its report on reconciliation proposals, which the opposition MPs said contained some inaccurate information. 
However, the majority of the panel, including many MPs from the ruling Pheu Thai Party, voted to endorse the report. 
Sonthi, the panel chairman, turned down the Democrat MPs’ request for a meeting to discuss adjustments to the report, insisting that the committee’s deliberation was complete and there would be no review, according to Democrat Nipit Intarasombat, one of the nine panel members resigning yesterday.
“We, the nine committee members, see that the committee’s report contains many mistakes that could cause damage in the future. We can no longer work with this committee, so we have resigned from it,” Nipit said.
Sonthi, a former Army chief who led the 2006 coup and now heads a small political party, declined to answer a question on whether the Democrats’ resignations would adversely affect reconciliation efforts. Sonthi walked away from a group of reporters at Parliament.
Speaking after the nine Democrats submitted their resignations, Nipit said Sonthi earlier wanted them to hand him their resignations in an area on the second floor of the Parliament building that is off limits to the media. The opposition MP said he suspected Sonthi did not want to answer questions from reporters.
Earlier, Nipit said the panel’s report was likely to be deliberated by Parliament next week so that a decree for amnesty would be issued soon. He added that proponents of the law were expected to cite state security in having it issued in the form of a decree, and not an act.
Democrat MP Ong-art Klampai-boon, another of the nine outgoing committee members, said his party supported the idea of national reconciliation but disagreed with the obvious attempt to rush the process of issuing an amnesty law. He did not think it was right to force reconciliation measures through by majority vote. That would be against the principle of reconciliation, he said.
Meanwhile, Pheu Thai MP Samart Kaewmechai, speaking in his capacity as deputy chairman of the committee for reconciliation, denied Democrat allegations that the panel had drawn hasty conclusions and neglected to review the reconciliation measures, as recommended by King Prajadhipok’s Institute.

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