House commences debate on second and third readings of 2020 budget bill

The House of Representatives, this morning, began debating the second and third readings of the much-delayed 3.22 trillion baht budget bill for 2020 fiscal year, under the chairmanship of House Speaker Chuan Leekpai.

The debate is scheduled to take for 45 hours over 3 days, with each MP being allocated 7-10 minutes of speaking time. The ministries of defence, interior and transport and the Central Fund will be the subject of intense focus by opposition MPs.

Prior to the debate, Seri Ruam Thai party leader Pol Gen Seripisut Temiyavet threatened legal action against any MP who votes for the budget bill in its second and third readings, claiming that the bill was illegally drafted by an illegitimate government whose leader, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, has broken the law for not fully reciting the oath during the swearing-in ceremony.

Do not be obstinate. Do not push for things which are illegal. All MPs, do not think that they will get the funding for their respective provinces. Please stop because the House is conspiring to break the law, warned the former police chief.

Aware of the concerns of a number of MPs, opposition chief whip Suthin Klangsaeng of Pheu Thai party said that he will ask the House of Representatives, as well as the House scrutiny committee, for clarity on the legal status of the bill and whether debating the bill is legal.

Before start of the debate, Mr. Chuan has sought cooperation from MPs by not taking selfies during the debate or bring food or drink into the meeting chamber.

MPs were also warned not to walk past MPs who are speaking or behind their backs, for the sake of orderliness.

The 2020 budget bill was supposed to come into force last October. It passed its first reading in the Lower House on October 19th when approved by 251 votes of mostly government MPs. 234 mostly opposition MPs abstained and one did not vote.

The bill has passed the 64-member House scrutiny committee, which comprises 15 representatives from the cabinet, 24 each from the opposition and government parties.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)