Democrats to fight borrowing bill in court after Senate approval

The Democrat Party will challenge the government's 2-trillion-baht borrowing bill in the Constitution Court after the Senate approves it, a Bangkok MP said on Saturday.

Attavit Suwannapakdee said the party's legal and economic experts would draft a petition that would be ready to send to the court after the bill passes the third and final reading by senators.

The bill, which authorises the Finance Ministry to seek loans totalling 2 trillion baht for infrastructure projects, cruised through its third reading in the House on Friday night by a vote of 287-105 with 11 abstentions and three "no" votes.

The Senate has not yet set a schedule for debating the bill.

Democrat deputy leader Korn Chatikavanij, left, and MP Attavit Suwannapakdee discuss the party's strategy for challenging the borrowing bill at a news conference on Saturday. (Democrat Party photo)

Surachai Chaitrakulthong, a Chon Buri senator and a Senate whip, expected the bill to be presented in the upper chamber on Sept 30.

The House could pass it on to the Senate on Monday and a meeting to set the date for the first deliberation by senators could be held on Wednesday, he said on Saturday.

The Senate is expected to spend 30 days reviewing, debating and voting on the bill, Mr Surachai added.

Democrat deputy leader Korn Chatikavanij reiterated the party's position opposing the bill on grounds that using money outside of the regular budget would damage financial discipline, which the constitution requires the government to adhere to.

Mr Attavit said the plan to use loans for the projects would also pose obstacles to public scrutiny, as taxpayers would be tied up with obligations for the money to be borrowed.

His Majesty the King's statement to the Office of the Auditor General on Aug 25, 1999 that state money is people's money would be used as another reason for the court to block the bill, he added.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said the government was not concerned about a court challenge as it was confident about the legality of the bill.

The government was worried more about lost opportunities for the country if the bill is bogged down, he said on the weekly "Yingluck Government Meets the People" TV programme on Saturday.

About 1.2 trillion baht of the 2-trillion-baht total is earmarked for improvements to the rail system including the construction of high-speed train lines.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra told bankers on Wednesday that the government planned to seek most of the funds from domestic lenders.

The Finance Ministry has said that 60% of the money would be borrowed from domestic banks and the rest would be raised through dollar-denominated bond issues to foreign investors.

Related search: constitution court, democrats, opposition, politics, senate, house, borrowing bill, infrastructure, kittiratt, korn

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Writer: Mongkol Bangprapa
Position: Reporter