Opposition “more of a team this time around” for no-confidence debate

The opposition parties are better coordinated to present a more united front for the upcoming no-confidence debate against government ministers, according to the Move Forward Party (MFP).

The opposition on Monday handed in a list of 10 cabinet members to face in the debate. Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn, Move Forward MP, told Thai Enquirer that his party is looking to debate against six of the ministers, but the combined opposition parties have yet to allocate the ministers to specific MPs.

“We will have to wait and see who wins this lottery and was unlucky enough to have been picked for me to debate against,” he said. He said he heard he was being considered to face Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and another minister, and all the pairings should be made public this week.

The no-confidence debate, expected before the end of February, will be the second in the six years of Prayut’s two governments. Wiroj said he expected this one to be more effective than the first one, which took place in February 2020.

“This time there are enough information and evidence to debate against 10 ministers who we believe can be connected and are responsible for various mismanagements,” he said.

The lawmaker said the opposition has learned from the first debate how to better coordinate between opposition parties and how to better manage the debating time.

“We are quite well-prepared with more coordination,” he said. “I understand that it is seamless now where we should be more of a team this time around.”

“We have also improved our lineup of debaters to make the issues more connected to each other so that it would be easier for the people to follow the debate with more visual presentations and engagement.”

At the previous debate in February 2020, the now-dissolved Future Forward Party (FFP) was frustrated at fellow opposition Pheu Thai Party for not leaving them enough time to grill ministers.

After the FFP was disbanded, most of their MPs moved on to formed the MFP, led by Pita Limjaroenrat.

Pita said on Monday that in this year’s debate there will not be the same problem of time pressure, as there is more unity within the opposition parties.

“As long as I am the leader of the MFP, there will be no repeat of the problems in terms of debating time as what happened at the previous debate,” he said.

Wiroj told Thai Enquirer that the themes of the debate were:

  1. The ineffectiveness and negligence of the government’s fiscal-budget management
  2. The lack of improvements in governance despite various warnings
  3. Corruptions, especially the providing of state benefits and projects to certain companies and the introduction of measures that only benefit certain companies
  4. Human rights violations

When asked if these could include the alleged mismanagement of the government’s coronavirus-relief measures and the use of the lese majeste law, Wiroj said yes.

“There will definitely be a debate on Covid, especially the mismanagement that has directly affected the people as the government is still providing lousy excuses to support only their side of the story while turning a blind eye to their plight,” he said.  

“For example we are getting vaccines slower than other countries because of their mismanagement,” he added. “This will further affect the people who are already suffering,” especially the less well-off, he added.

Wiroj said the country will never be able to fully open without a more thorough vaccination programme, because many Thai people will not want the country to fully open without out them and visitors might also be hesitant to come.

“Some government MPs argue that Thailand has relatively few cases so we can afford to wait and see the side effects [of the vaccine] in other countries first. But this clearly shows that the government does not care about the people who are suffering right now,” he added.  

He said that the government keeps blaming its citizens for the outbreaks. For example, the PM was chastising gamblers for spreading the virus when the problem is the government’s failures to stop illegal gambling dens and illegal border crossings from happening, he said.

The issues over the government’s misuse of the state-of-emergency decree and the lese-majeste law to arrest dissidents and protestors will also be debated, he added.

“The government has yet to explain to the United Nations about their use of the 112 law so it will be one of the debate topics as well,” he said.

Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, a secretary to the PM’s Office, told reporters on Tuesday that the government is not concerned about the no-confidence debate as the Prayut government is honest, transparent and there are no corruption problems, unlike elected governments in the past.

Apart from Prayut, who is premier and also minister of defence, the remaining nine ministers that opposition MPs are targeting include:

  1. Prawit Wongsuwan, deputy prime minister in charge of security affairs
  2. Anutin Charnvirakul, deputy prime minister and health minister
  3. Jurin Laksanawisit, deputy prime minister and commerce minister
  4. Anupong Paochinda, interior minister
  5. Nataphol Teepsuwan, education minister
  6. Suchart Chomklin, labour minister
  7. Saksayam Chidchob, transport minister
  8. Niphon Bunyamanee, deputy interior minister
  9. Thammanat Prompao, deputy agriculture minister

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