Friday, July 19, 2019

New government to be ready by middle of July, PM assures

Jun 25. 2019
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha teases a young beneficiary of the Equitable Education Fund (EQF) that provides scholarships for low-income children, as EQF chair Prasarn Trairatvorakul looks on at Government House yesterday.
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha teases a young beneficiary of the Equitable Education Fund (EQF) that provides scholarships for low-income children, as EQF chair Prasarn Trairatvorakul looks on at Government House yesterday.
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By KAS CHANWANPEN
THE NATION

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AMID SPECULATION and concern about the failure to set up a Cabinet three months after the March election, Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday confirmed that the new government would be ready by mid-July.

PM Prayut said a check of the ministers’ qualifications was underway. The line-up would be submitted for royal endorsement soon after Prayut returns from Japan where he will attend the G20 Summit on Friday and Saturday.

“It will be finished just in time,” Prayut told reporters yesterday in a press briefing after the weekly Cabinet meeting. 

Prayut conceded that there might be changes to the line-up circulated in the media. He said the disappointed candidates could still work in the lower house as MPs, adding that he believed this should not create problems within the bloc if everyone agreed it was in the best interest of the country.

The junta leader-turned-elected PM has appeared to be pacing himself and not rushing the process of finalising the new Cabinet. This is despite the fact that General Prayut has been asked almost daily by reporters about the progress. Some commentators see the progress in government formation as too slow, considering the election was held three months ago and Prayut had secured his premiership almost a month ago.

Initially, the delay was due to disagreements within the junta-aligned bloc on the allocation of portfolios. But the onus of resolving of that was passed on to Prayut as the PM, with stakeholders saying they trusted the general to make the decisions and keep promises.

Some questioned if Prayut appeared to be dragging his heels over the matter as he was enjoying the semi-power vacuum and the status quo. 

Without a new government in place, Prayut is both the legitimate elected prime minister and also the head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The Constitution prescribes that the coup-installed council would become defunct only after the new government takes office.

Opposition ready for battle

Anti-junta politicians were pushing the general to get on with forming the Cabinet, citing the length of time since the March 24 election.

Future Forward Party secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul yesterday pointed out the three-month vacuum and the June 11 royal endorsement of Prayut as premier – and still there was no Cabinet to run the country.

“I call on General Prayut to do it quickly and not let the portfolio allocation to get in the way, affecting the administration,” Piyabutr said yesterday. “The anti-junta opposition is now ready to do the job. We are already prepared to quiz them in Parliament but we have no idea who will respond to questions.”

Pheu Thai secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai sent out a similar message, tweeting yesterday that the country was stuck on pause because the leader did not have the capacity to form a government.

While the government had yet to be properly formed, the opposition parties have used the time to prepare for grilling their rivals in Parliament.

In today’s session, Pheu Thai spokesperson Laddawan Wongsriwong said the opposition would scrutinise the national reform plan to discuss its lack of progress. The controversial 20-year national strategy would also be addressed today, she said. 

The debate today is expected to be heated and extensive. Pheu Thai deputy spokesman Jirayu Huangsap said it was because this would be the first debate in five years since the 2014 coup.

In a related development, scores of parliamentarians in both houses as well as ministerial candidates were scrutinised, most of them for allegedly holding shares in media companies.

The scrutiny follows the suspension of Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit from the lower house. The opposition parties have levelled the same charges against their rival MPs and demanded that face the same restrictions as Thanathorn.

Initially, there were complaints that 41 MPs allegedly held shares in media companies. The Constitution Court will decide today whether or not to accept petition. It is also expected that the court will decide if, like Thanathorn, the 41 accused would also be suspended from the House.

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