Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom will not be grilled over the government's rice pledging scheme at this month's censure debate, after he was left off the censure motion submitted by the Democrat Party yesterday.
The Democrats said they will instead direct their questions regarding the controversial scheme to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Alongkorn Ponlaboot, a deputy leader of the Democrats, said yesterday that the party would present questions on the rice pledging scheme in the censure debate, but they would not target the commerce minister.
Instead, the party will force Ms Yingluck to answer the questions herself, he said, as she is the key subject of the censure motion.
"If the prime minister has others answer questions in her place or only reads from scripts, people will realise the leadership quality of this prime minister," Mr Alongkorn said.
"And if the prime minister is unable to answer the questions, it will lend weight and credibility to the accusations being made by the opposition."
Mr Alongkorn said the rice pledging scheme concerned not only the Commerce Ministry but also the Finance Ministry and many committees, and that the prime minister could therefore not avoid responsibility.
But Democrat list-MP and opposition chief whip Jurin Laksanavisit conceded yesterday that the censure motion did not include Mr Boonsong because the opposition did not have enough information against the minister.
Mr Jurin yesterday submitted the censure motion to House Speaker and Parliament President Somsak Kiatsuranont.
Apart from Ms Yingluck, the censure motion also targets Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat and Deputy Interior Minister Chatt Kuldiloke, who is a former deputy transport minister.
The censure motion has been signed by 155 Democrat MPs as well as two Rak Thailand MPs.
Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, president of the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida), said the opposition most likely spared the Commerce Ministry in its no-confidence motion because it did not want to upset voters.
He said that although the rice pledging scheme was prone to corruption, it remained a popular policy with voters. He said academics, including from Nida, and opposition members who have criticised the scheme have already faced a backlash from its supporters.
In the censure motion, opposition and Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said that Prime Minister Yingluck was inefficient, had failed in national administration, and had not fulfilled her promises to parliament and the general public.
The opposition leader also accused the prime minister of being incompetent, of tolerating discrimination and corruption, trashing the rule of law, and evading accountability to parliament. The censure debate is scheduled for Nov 25 and 26, with the vote set for the following day.
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Writer: Nattaya Chetchotiros and Aekarach Sattaburuth