Prayut takes a dig at Thaksin as Pheu Thai casts aspersion on budget
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha launched a veiled attack on exiled ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra while responding to allegations of favouritism by the opposition leader during the budget debate on Tuesday.
In his response to opposition and Pheu Thai Party leader Cholnan Srikaew's criticism of the budget, Prayut said his government did not practice favouritism like how the Thaksin government in the past threatened to make budgetary provisions only to provinces that elected the ruling party’s MPs.
Cholnan was the first opposition MP to attack the fiscal 2023 budget bill on the first day of the three-day budget debate.
Cholnan alleged that the budget allocations were prepared with the intention of benefiting coalition partners.
Cholnan alleged that the budget allocations were made in a way that the budget bill was held hostage by coalition partners in exchange for Prayut staying in power.
Prayut said the central budget was normally increased during the process of vetting of the budget bill by a special House committee after the bill clears the first reading.
He cited the 2022 budget bill as an example. He said the bill proposed investment expenditure of THB620 billion, but the vetting trimmed it down to THB610 billion and that amount was sent to the central fund.
Prayut added that he could not approve central fund usage on his own, as it would have to be approved by the Cabinet in accordance with the real needs in provinces.
“The trimming of the proposed budget must be done in accordance with the needs in provinces. We don’t do it like someone in the past who announced that he would not allocate budgets to provinces that failed to elect his party’s candidates. [Before criticising me], please consider whether development projects are planned for all provinces or not,” Prayut said.
“Whether there is corruption or not, it must be proved in court. If you have evidence, sue me in court. You should also consider what happened in previous lawsuits and whether someone fled jail terms [to live in exile].”
Prayut walked out of the assembly hall after delivering his response.
Although he did not mention who his barbs were aimed at, it was clear that he was referring to Thaksin, the de facto leader of Pheu Thai.
Thaksin has been living in exile following a coup in 2006 that toppled his government. He was later convicted of corruption and sentenced to jail, but fled the country.
Thaksin’s quote that he would take special care of provinces that elected Thai Rak Thai MPs have often been cited by his opponents to attack him.
He made the remarks on October 31, 2005 when he was the prime minister and Thai Rak Thai leader. Seventeen years later it still haunts him.
Thaksin made the remarks while giving a speech at the auditorium of the Banphot Pitthayakhom School in Banphot Pisai district of Nakhon Sawan province when he handed over land lease documents to local people. The people were allowed to lease land of the Crown Property Bureau at a cheap rate under a Thai Rak Thai populist project.
“I’ll be straightforward. We must take special care of provinces that trusted us to take care of them. We must take care of people in the entire country but we have limited time, so we must give our time to provinces where we have received much trust,” Thaksin said.
His remarks came in the aftermath of Thai Rak Thai losing by-elections in two of three provinces. The winning Thai Rak Thai candidate in Sing Buri province secured a lower number of votes.