MPs will have something special to celebrate when they reconvene for an extra session of parliament on May 28 to debate the 2014 budget bill. After years of delay and wrangling over locations, a contract has been signed to build a palatial new parliament beside the Chao Phraya River in the Kiakkai area of Dusit district. It will carry a price tag of 12.2 billion baht to which must be added the cost of relocating the state agencies and school that formerly occupied the land along with the new furnishings, IT equipment and infrastructure.
Critics have slammed the project as a shameful waste of money. They say there is nothing wrong with the present building, opened in 1974 and since renovated. But parliamentary representatives cite the need for more offices, staff and parking space; a problem that could be eased by some judicious reorganisation because the building is rarely full. MPs frequently take paid study trips around the world. Surely they have noticed that some parliaments are smaller with fewer amenities than ours.
As lawmakers approach the mid-point of their four-year term, report cards show mixed results. There have been serious breakdowns in parliamentary discipline, decorum and the good manners expected of the people's representatives. This was highlighted by the brawling and attempted intimidation of the Speaker when MPs stormed his chair during one volatile debate and continual squabbles and bickering between representatives. These are usually heated extensions of the eternal conflict between the pro- and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra factions and their proxies.
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