Fri, August 12, 2022

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Opposition ups pressure on Prayut as coalition misses House quorum again


The fragile Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP)-led coalition was shamefaced again on Thursday when opposition leader Pheu Thai Party tested its strength by demanding to check the House quorum.

The coalition’s failure to make quorum resulted in the House being adjourned for the 17th time, which prompted the new Kla Party to demand that MPs be punished for skipping meetings without a good reason.

Once lawmakers finished deliberating on motions submitted by the opposition, Parliament President Chuan Leekpai announced that the House would discuss the State Audit Office’s policy for the 2023 fiscal year.

It was at this point that Pheu Thai MPs asked for the quorum to be checked, and when the quorum was not met, Chuan had no choice but to adjourn the meeting.

The meeting was shelved before the House could deliberate on 17 reports from its panels, including one on the erosion of Thailand’s coasts and another on the amendment of the municipal election law.

Deliberation on another nine urgent motions is also pending, including a motion calling for the setting up of a special panel to study the construction of a tunnel in Nakhon Phanom.

In addition to these, there is a backlog of 19 motions left from last year to consider.

Opposition ups pressure on Prayut as coalition misses House quorum again Political observers say the opposition is using quorum checking as a tool to step up pressure on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to dissolve the House.

The PPRP-led coalition already had a slim majority, which became even slimmer when it expelled 21 rebel MPs led by former PPRP secretary-general Thamanat Phrompow.

However, Prayut and his deputy Prawit Wongsuwan, who is also PPRP leader, insist the coalition will survive games inside the Parliament.

Observers, however, have also pointed out that the House adjournment over attendance numbers has cost the state 71 million baht. They pointed out that the state shells out 3.82 million baht per day to pay 473 MPs 8,085 baht each based on their monthly salary of 242,560 baht.

In addition to the amount paid to MPs, the state must also shoulder a daily bill of 360,000 baht for using Parliament facilities. So, when a meeting is adjourned halfway, 4.18 million baht is wasted every time.

This wastage has prompted Kla Party to submit a letter to Chuan demanding that House meeting regulations be amended to punish MPs who are absent.

The letter, handed in by Kla Party members Pongpol Yodmuangcharoen and Saenyakorn Singweetham, was signed by 8,000 members of the public.

The letter said the money wasted from lack of quorum comes from the taxpayers’ pockets, so the amount should be docked from MPs’ salaries every time they are absent.

Opposition ups pressure on Prayut as coalition misses House quorum again The letter also said that if an MP is absent for up to 25 per cent of House meetings in the current tenure, they should be stripped of their right to vote and debate in two meetings.

Those who are absent up to 50 per cent of the time should be disqualified from standing in the next general election, the letter said.

Pongpol added that the proposed penalties were based on the punishment imposed on MPs who fail to vote. They are usually disqualified from contesting elections or becoming political officers for two years.

Pongpol said both the coalition and opposition should be held responsible for the failure to achieve quorum, adding that all MPs should be present to vote.

Saenyakorn also pointed out that the House committee on ethics, which is chaired by Chuan, should act against absent MPs. He also called on Chuan to check if the MPs who skipped the House meeting used their right to fly to Bangkok for free. If they have, then they should be investigated for corruption, he said.

Published : February 11, 2022

By : THE NATION