Lawmakers' bad behaviour

Lawmakers' bad behaviour

Our lawmakers have been behaving outrageously recently as shown by the spate of parliamentary session collapses, including those on July 27, Aug 3, Aug 10 and Aug 11, due to the lack of a quorum.

A quorum is the minimum number of MPs that must be present for a vote on a bill to take place. Yet many absences preventing a quorum were not justified with a good reason, leading many to question the motivation for such a brazen disregard for the legislative process among MPs and senators.

It is generally accepted that the absences were the result of parties attempting to scupper the election bill that supports the use of 500 as the divisor for calculating party-list seats at the next election. Other bills due to be debated also fell victim as a consequence.

One other likely to be affected is an anti-torture bill -- the Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Bill. The original draft was written almost 15 years ago, with the aim of preventing rogue officials from torturing or abducting suspects for harbouring critical views even in the absence of proven criminal behaviour.

Indeed, the bill seemed to be on the verge of promulgation in late 2014 before it was surprisingly withdrawn from its final reading at the last minute.

The bill -- a hodgepodge of drafts written by civic groups, the Justice Ministry, lawmakers and the government -- finally passed the first reading in the Lower House early this year and was tabled for senators to debate on Tuesday as part of a second and third reading process supposed to see the bill's final passage into the statute books.

However, the document must now be sent back to the Lower House for final approval simply because the Senate made a number of revisions to the version approved by MPs.

Given the recent political game-playing and time constraints, it remains to be seen whether the bill ends up returning to its prior state in cobwebbed limbo.

One important clause being removed is the stipulation for a selection process for members of a committee tasked with overseeing the enforcement of the Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act. Senators decided instead to grant the PM a free hand to appoint the committees as he sees fit.

Another clause to end up on the cutting room floor would have required a representative of victims to be granted a seat on the panel.

The Senate, however, shied away from allowing this element of public inclusivity from making it beyond draft status.

So it should go without saying that the imperfect version set to be approved and returned by the Senate is less than perfect, and has been dismissed as unacceptable by many human rights advocates.

The urgent mission that both houses must now accept is to work out their differences and make this law as inclusive and far-reaching as possible in what little time remains.

Some civic groups have taken the pragmatic view that it would be better for the Lower House to pass the law as it is, with the aim being to at least get something passed into law to protect victims of state-sponsored violence.

The political temperature may be on the rise, but this bill cannot be cast aside or used as tinder to reignite old rivalries.

A less-than-perfect promulgated law is better than waiting until hell freezes over for a perfect version that may never see the light of the day.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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