Thailand: Parliament to meet on Thursday to reapprove the 2020 budget and send it to the Senate for approval

On Friday, the ex-Democrat MP who exposed the proxy voting in the House of Representatives welcomed the court’s decision and also suggested that the MPs found at fault should be forwarded for investigation by the Anti Corruption Commission.

The Thai parliament will meet on Thursday to vote again on the second and third readings of the 2020 budget bill which was sent to the Constitutional Court in January after it emerged that several MPs had been engaged in proxy voting and were not present in the chamber when their votes were cast. It follows an expedited ruling for the Constitutional Court which will have come as a relief to the Thai government.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives Chuan Leekpai has ordered a special session of the house on Thursday to pass the second and third reading of the 2020 budget bill again by MPs after the Constitutional Court ruled on the issue on Friday.

The Thai Parliament will hold a special session on Thursday next, the 13th of February, to vote again on stages 2 and 3 of the 2020 budget bill. This follows a decision by the Constitutional Court on Friday which did not consider it necessary to nullify the bill after confirmed reports of proxy voting. The court instead ordered the votes taken again.

The matter was referred to the court by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chuan Leekpai.

Mr Chuan has now ordered the special house session to right the matter.

The budget is the biggest in Thailand’s history at ฿3.2 billion and was initially passed in January.

To be sent on Friday to the Senate

It is intended the bill be voted on without delay and submitted to the Thai Senate on the following day for approval.

If all goes according to plan, it will be one less headache for the Thai government and its economic team as it was struggling to find ways to deal with limits on funding now in place on government departments.

The government was allowed to spend up to 50% of the budget provisions before the law was legally enacted.

The budget bill was already delayed last year because of the Thai general election process and the time it took for a new government to be formed.

If approved next week, it will be shot in the arm for public capital investment plans which are critical to a Thai economy currently in freefall due to the Chinese coronavirus outbreak.

Democrat MP calls for swift passage of the bill

Chinaworn Boonyakiat, the Democrat MP for Nakhon Si Thammarat called on Saturday for members of the House of Representatives not to debate or stall the bill any further in the national interest.

The Democrat Party, Thailand’s oldest political grouping and a member of the government coalition, will meet on Tuesday the 11th and the party’s deputy leader Ongart Klampaiboon has made similar calls to MPs of his party.

Decision of the Court not to nullify the bill was due to new procedures and the nature of the legislation

The decision by the Constitutional Court not to nullify the bill contrasts with a similar situation in 2014 when a ฿2 billion infrastructure bill was quashed by the court again over proxy voting.

On Friday, the court clarified that there were some significant differences. One of these was that the court enjoyed more leeway under new procedures laid down for it in recent provisions. 

It also explained that while the constitution of 2017 and 2007 have the same provision regarding votes of MPs in parliament, both sets of legislation, one being budget bill and the other an infrastructural provision of the then government of Yingluck Shinawatra, were quite different.

MPs should be referred to the corruption commission

This weekend, Nipit Intarasombat, the former Democrat MP who exposed the proxy voting scandal, suggested to the government that those MPs involved in it should be referred to the National Anti Corruption Commission for investigation.

Mr Nipit also welcomed the decision of the court.

Public anger over the debacle and the damage inflicted on the economy has grown in recent weeks.

Pheu Thai MP – the government must resign

Somkid Chueakong, the Pheu Thai MP for Ubon Ratchathani, said this weekend that because the offending MPs were linked with the coalition government, the ministry should take the opportunity following the censure motion to be debated by the house later in the month, to resign from office to demonstrate democratic accountability to the public.