6 June 2024

Opposition chief whip Suthin Klangsaeng admitted today (Tuesday) that he is not certain that opposition parties will be able to scupper the 2023 fiscal budget bill, deemed to be incorrectly proportioned by the Opposition and government critics, while government parties are confident that it will sail through its first reading in the Lower House.

Suthin said that opposition parties are against the bill, but they need support from other MPs to derail the bill and “I am not sure whether they have the guts to raise their hands to support us.”

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha took to the floor this morning, the first day of the three-day debate, to present the budget bill to MPs. He was followed by opposition and Pheu Thai party leader Chonlanan Srikaew, who began the debate.

Suthin said that the budget bill was prepared by officials last year and, therefore, is not relevant to changing situations, manifested by the war in Ukraine, global oil price increases and global inflation.

Government deputy chief whip Chinnaworn Boonyakiat said that he has confidence that all government MPs will vote for the budget bill. He promised, however, that the opposition will be given the chance to vet it in the House scrutiny committee, to be set up after the bill passes its first reading.

The debate lasts until Thursday, with occasional breaks during the meeting, with the government and opposition camps each allocated 22 hours of speaking time.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said that, at the Cabinet meeting yesterday, government parties must make sure that their MPs are present in the parliament chamber during the debate, to ensure the meeting has a quorum. This, he said, will be especially important on Wednesday, at about 5pm, when the prime minister is due to meet his Laotian counterpart at Government House, to prevent the opposition from calling for a quorum check, which may result in the collapse of the House meeting.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, leader of the Palang Pracharath party, the core coalition party, gave an assurance that government MPs will be present in force during the debate and that the bill will sail through its first reading.