11 July 2024

Former Future Forward party secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul has revealed what he claims to be how MPs of the defunct party were cheated of their debating time by the core opposition party, Pheu Thai, leaving them unable to censure Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda on Thursday.

In his Facebook post on Thursday night, after the end of the four-day censure debate, Piyabutr said that working with the other opposition parties on the censure debate was problematic from the start.

Before the dissolution of the party, Future Forward made clear it wanted to censure only five ministers, namely Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, deputy prime ministers Prawit Wongsuwan and Dr. Wissanu Krea-ngarm, Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda and Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao.

“Afterwards, however, there was a rumour about a request to omit Prawit Wongsuwan and there was a proposal that only Prayut would be censured, but we didn’t believe it and insisted on censuring the other ministers as well, because we had already made preparations,” said Piyabutr, adding that the list of ministers to be censured kept changing, with General Prawit’s name being placed last.

After one and a half days of debate, Government and Opposition whips met to discuss the sharing of time without Future Forward representatives being invited.  It was agreed that the Government would be allotted 10 hours and the Opposition 21 hours.

Piyabutr said the opposition whips did not consider how many opposition MPs were yet to speak, adding that Future Forward should have been allotted 9 hours, because its MPs had only used 140 minutes of their time.

“We started to realize that too much time had been used to focus on Prayut and that there might not be enough time for the other ministers,” said Piyabutr, adding that the party proposed that the first three days should be reserved for the Prime Minister and the last day of the debate for the remaining five ministers. This was agreed by the opposition parties.

“But this agreement was torn apart because of just one Pheu Thai MP (Sarunvudh Sarungate of Uttradit) who didn’t show up on the third night and insisted on speaking the following day,” said Piyabutr, adding that he and a few other MPs then approached Pheu Thai leader Sompong Amornvivat, demanding that the agreement should be followed, but this was rejected by the Pheu Thai party, which suggested that Future Forward MPs debate Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat on the third night.

“Talking with the Pheu Thai was very difficult because it was not known who had the final say.  Agreements kept being changed, with one person saying one thing and another saying a different thing,” Piyabutr lamented.

He went on to say that the Future Forward MPs had to make changes to censure Thammanat until 3am of the next day.

“They (Pheu Thai MPs) burned up our time until we were left with just 30 minutes instead of 210 minutes as earlier allotted,” Piyabutr complained.

He said Future Forward MPs had worked hard to prepare for the debate, but were denied the chance to speak because of obstruction by other opposition parties.

“How can we defeat the dictatorship if we keep obstructing each other, because this (censure debate) was seen as a farce to dupe the audience,” said Piyabutr.