11 July 2024

Opposition MPs have voiced their frustration over the absence from the Lower House today (Thursday) of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha or any of his representatives to respond to an interpellation over the current economic problems, raised by Move Forward party leader Pita Limjaroenrat.

Pita’s question was directed to the prime minister but, in his letter to the House speaker, the prime minister claimed he was busy and that he had assigned Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith to answer the interpellation on his behalf.

Arkhom, however, claimed in a letter to the House speaker that he would not be free, but had assigned his deputy, Santi Promphat, to act on his behalf, but Santi also claimed he was busy and could not attend the session.

During the House meeting today, Pita said that the issue he raised was an important one, which is affecting a lot of people, and that someone in the government, the prime minister in particular, must answer, adding that the excuse of having other engagements is not acceptable.

He then asked Deputy House Speaker Suchart Tancharoen who was chairing the meeting, to remind the prime minister to comply with House regulations regarding interpellations.

Pheu Thai MP for Chiang Mai province, Julapun Amornvivat, said in parliament that the government is accountable to parliament and for the prime minister to assign someone who is not free to respond to an interpellation on his behalf is unacceptable.

Responding to the opposition MPs’ complaints, Suchart said that he had previously reminded the government, including the prime minister, that they should show respect to parliament and should respond to MPs’ queries.

He said that, before assigning someone to respond to the Opposition’s interpellation, the prime minister must make sure that the person is free to act on his behalf. He later reminded Deputy Interior Minister Nipon Boonyamanee to inform the prime minister about the opposition’s complaints against him.

Suchart told the opposition, however, that they could raise the same interpellation with the prime minister at the next House meeting.

This is far from being the first such incident, as Prayut previously assigned a minister to answer questions in parliament on his behalf but the minister could not make it either.

Thailand’s GDP growth rate is projected to be 3.2% this year, increasing to 4.4% next year, according to Monetary Policy Committee’s forecast in early June. Like many other countries, inflation is surging, and is predicted to reach 4.9% this year. Prices of several goods especially food items are on the rise, in line with higher fuel costs, as diesel is currently at about 35 baht/litre.

The Opposition is planning to grill Prayut and 10 of his ministers in mid-July in the fourth censure debate against this administration.