Pheu Thai politely scorches Prayut in ‘unmasking’ debate
Opposition leader Cholnan Srikaew launched a two-day general debate on Wednesday morning to grill the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, previewing the issues opposition parties will focus on for the upcoming election.
Although he spoke politely and smiled frequently, he accused the government of massive corruption, abuse of power, incompetence, and a failure to do what it said it would – improve the lives of Thai citizens.
Cholnan refers to the debate as an operation to “unmask the decent” because reporters nicknamed Prayut’s ruling coalition “a government with a mask of decency”.
He leads the main opposition party, Pheu Thai.
After thanking Prayut and his Cabinet for attending the session, Cholnan told them they had failed to do what they promised when they announced their policy statement almost four years ago.
In particular, Cholnan said, the government – which completes its four-year term on March 22 – failed to address 12 urgent issues, including improving the quality of life of Thai citizens.
The gap between the rich and the poor remains wide, and rural Thais are still trapped in poverty, Cholnan said.
The government has failed fishermen and damaged the fishing industry with ill-advised regulations, and failed to increase the price of crops, he said.
Mothers of newborns are not receiving state welfare as promised, he added.
Both the drug trade and corruption have worsened under the Prayut government, he said.
The government promised to reform politics, but instead it opted for “money politics” – spending the national budget to buy popularity, Cholnan said.
The national budget has not been distributed fairly and massive amounts of money have been siphoned off for mega and local projects, Cholnan said. As a result, corruption has risen to unprecedented levels, he said.
After his opening salvo, Cholnan said 35 opposition MPs from four parties will speak during the two-day debate and each party will focus on different issues:
Pheu Thai MPs will focus on five issues:
- the government’s failure to implement 12 urgent policies,
- social violence (the Nong Bua Lamphu childcare centre massacre will be the main example),
- last year's massive flooding,
- unfair and improper budget allocations, and
Move Forward Party MPs will focus on five issues:
- economic mismanagement,
- failure to distribute administrative power properly,
- failure to reform land-use policies to help landless people and protect the environment,
- failure to ensure national security, and
Prachachart Party MPs will focus on four issues:
- corruption in mega projects, especially the Orange Line railway,
- granting forest land concessions to tycoons,
- violence in the Deep South, and
- nepotism and abuse of power.
Pua Chart Party MPs will focus on the government’s economic failures, Cholnan said.
The debate will not end with a vote because it is being held under a provision in Section 152 of the Constitution that does not require a vote.