A House of cards
As parliament enters its final chapter, with the next election fast approaching, it has been struggling in the face of a series of collapsed sessions.
These resulted from the lack of a quorum, meaning the minimum number of attending MPs required for voting failed to show as several politicians took a leave of duty.
They cited the need to meet their constituents and look after their political bases as the election -- scheduled for May 7 if parliament runs its course -- is close at hand.
But this is a lame excuse. Their absence was tantamount to dereliction of duty.
Since parliament reconvened on Nov 1, meetings have collapsed on Nov 4, Nov 23 and Dec 1 when the House was set to meet on a bill involving the impeachment of members of local administrative agencies.
Another meeting on the bill that was due to take place yesterday was at risk of ending the same way -- before it even began.
Indeed, 25 collapsed meetings have taken place since this parliament opened in 2019. Such blatant negligence by irresponsible MPs taints the House's image and shakes public confidence in this major political institution.
Previously, some politicians exploited the quorum requirement for ill-gotten gains, knowing the coalition led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha needed their votes in crucial sessions like no-confidence debates due to its razor-thin majority. This led to some ugly bargaining for cash hand-outs or a seat on a House panel.
Now the bargaining is even tougher as all parties want A-list politicians to ensure they make a comeback as a big winner in the next election.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam expressed his concern at this state of affairs as it makes people question the role and function of parliament.
It suggests the institution is in decline, with such shameful acts stripping it of its dignity.
It's unfortunate those MPs have not repented but rather repeated such shameful acts. This gives rise to calls for punishment, like salary cuts for those absent from meetings. Some say the MPs should be condemned publicly, and their parties should be held accountable.
Except for a blame game between the government and the opposition, nothing much has happened as the MPs do not want to corner their colleagues. So, the practice is allowed to continue.
In principle, the MPs have to serve until the House's last day on Feb 28 and help it prepare for the elections. After the Lower House draws to a close on Feb 28, the Senate, despite its remaining tenure, cannot hold any sessions except for those related to the appointment of candidates for state positions. This is in line with Section 126 of the charter.
Politicians should remember they have a duty to serve until the very last day.
In fact, they are obliged to work against time so that a number of crucial pieces of legislation, for example a bill on cannabis and hemp control, and two others regulating alcohol use and indigenous peoples, will be enshrined in law and enforced early to benefit the public.
Instead of acting selfishly, the MPs must serve the public who chose them.
They need to behave well and regain the respect of the public while proving that parliament is not only still relevant but of crucial importance.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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- thai politics