Local govt bodies, P-Move rally against govt

Neither local government politicians nor the People's Movement for a Just Society (P-Move) were happy with the vague answers they received from the government after submitting their demands on Tuesday.

  • Published: 14/05/2013 at 05:21 PM
  • Newspaper section: topstories

Local government body protesters march from the Royal Plaza to Government House on Tuesday to submit their demands to the cabinet before ending their protest. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

The two groups rallied separately at Government House, each pressing for a commitment from Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her cabinet.

Local government politicians submitted a list of demands that included an increase in local government budget allocations, and promised to return to Government House in two weeks if their needs are ignored.

About 3,000 representatives from the Associations of Provincial Administrative Organisations of Thailand, the Municipal League of Thailand and the Association of Tambon Administration Organisations of Thailand came to Bangkok on Monday, rallied at the Royal Plaza and then marched to Ms Yingluck's office, gathering outside Government House, to submit their demands.

"If we do not get satisfactory answers, these three organisations will hold talks and then take action again on May 28," said Banjong Kositjeeranun, mayor of Roi Et city, one of the protest leaders.

They urged the government to increase the budget allocation for local government from 27.78% to 30% of the national budget in the next fiscal year, to cease using local government budgets for projects initiated by the central government, and to reimburse them for the increased costs resulting from government decreed increases in the minimum daily wage and monthly salaries for staff.

The government has raised the daily wage for labour to 300 baht and set the minimum salary for officials with a bachelor's degree at 15,000 baht.

One of their grumbles is having to pay for village health volunteers, a policy scheme operated by the national government for which local administration organisations must bear the cost.

 "This project should be removed from local government budget,'' Mr Banjong said.

Pornchai Kowsurat, the Ubon Ratchathani mayor, promised a bigger rally next time if their demands are ignored,   and said members of the three organisations will wear black until the deadline.

PM's Office Minister Varathep Rattanakorn received their submission, but made no promises. He said their demands  would be passed on to the cabinet.

The government would seek comments from other agencies on the budget issue, said Mr Varathep, who sits on  the finance subcommittee of the panel tasked with decentralisation.

Mr Varathep hoped that the conflict with local government politicians would not widen, saying that the meeting on Tuesday was amicable.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva supported the local government representatives' call for a larger budget. Speaking on the party's Blue Sky satellite television station, he said it is possible now because the coalition government has a very sound fiscal position.

The opposition leader opposed the government's practice of making local government bodies pay for projects initiated by the national government.

The government is required to eventually set aside 35% of the national expenditure budget for local administration organisations at all levels under the Decentralisation Law that took effect in 1999. The goal has not been achieved in past administrations, partly due to the budget drain in the wake of the 1997 financial crisis.

Meanwhile, P-Move members went back to their camp in front of the Education Ministry after ending their rally at Government House. They will wait there until the cabinet agrees to consider proposed measures to improve the lives of displaced people, including those displaced by government projects.

This morning, they blocked all but one of the entrance gates to Government House, leaving only the Orathai Bridge entry open. The prime minister, cabinet members, government officials and people on official business enter the Government House compound through that gate.

Special Branch police locked the gates where the protesters rallied and riot police were deployed inside the grounds.

P-Move demanded that four key proposals, which were submitted through Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, be accepted for future consideration by the cabinet at its meeting today.

They are calling on the government to issue community land title deeds, solve problems relating to the Pak Mun dam, issue a law on building control, and establish a land bank. They also want the 10 subcommittees set up to solve problems relating to their cause to finally start holding meetings.

They said they would call off the rally at 11pm once they were assured that their suggestions had been taken up for consideration, but  they would continue their rally if the demands were not considered.

The government should solve their problems instead of just putting them off, Supoj Karnsong, a P-Move leader said.

Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung was assigned to lead a  cabinet group to solve the problems of the grassroots group, deputy government spokeswoman Lt Sunisa Lertpakawat said.

P-Move last week submitted a letter to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra asking that she increase support for the displaced, especially landless farmers, for stateless people and communities forced to relocate because of state projects.

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