Pushing for accountability

Pushing for accountability

FFP to deliver bombshell in no-confidence motion, writes Aekarach Sattaburuth

Future Forward Party secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul says opposition MPs must immerse themselves in the centsure issues to deliver an effective debate. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Future Forward Party secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul says opposition MPs must immerse themselves in the centsure issues to deliver an effective debate. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The Future Forward Party (FFP) will add a new dimension to the upcoming no-confidence debate against the government, as it has an ace up its sleeve which will deal the government a knockout blow, said party secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul.

Mr Piyabutr will come to the fore on behalf of the FFP during the debate, after the Constitutional Court disqualified party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit last year, after ruling he owned shares in a media company when he registered his candidacy for last year's general election.

The 40-year-old scholar-turned-politician finished high school at Assumption College before obtaining a law degree with second-class honours at Thammasat University.

He received a scholarship from the French government and graduated with a DEA (equivalent to a Master's degree) in public law and environmental law from the University of Nantes, before he went on to receive a doctorate from the University of Toulouse.

The former Thammasat University law lecturer and an ex-member of the Nitirat group of progressive law scholars then joined hands with Mr Thanathorn -- the scion of Thailand's biggest auto parts group -- to form the Future Forward Party.

On Friday, the opposition submitted a censure debate motion to Parliament president Chuan Leekpai, in which Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and five other ministers will be targeted.

The other five ministers are Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda, Foreign Affairs Minister Don Pramudwinai and Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thamanat Prompow.

Chief opposition whip and Pheu Thai MP for Maha Sarakham, Sutin Klungsang, earlier said the censure debate is tentatively scheduled for Feb 19-21, with votes in the no-confidence motion to be cast on Feb 22.

Opposition parties are meeting today to work out their approach and lay down the format of the debate.

The debate will take place after the House spends the next seven days examining the no-confidence motion.

Mr Piyabutr said that a total of 15 FFP MPs will take part in the debate, and even though Mr Thanathorn is no longer an MP, he is still responsible for gathering and distributing information to each debater.

That said, he said, the MPs will still have to do their homework and seek out extra information.

"They also have to immerse themselves in the issues they will bring up in the no-confidence debate," Mr Piyabutr said.

"We believe those who are deeply involved [in their respective causes] will be able to perform well in the debate."

Mr Piyabutr said that while censure debates in the past centred on corruption allegations, the current proceeding is not unconstitutional because the charter allows for ministers and government officials to be brought to account for inefficiencies in national administration.

"It's not just about legal responsibility -- it is also about political accountability," he said.

In light of this, Mr Piyabutr said the FFP is planning to cover a wide range of issues in the debate -- from allegations of graft and incompetency in the running of the country, the qualifications of individual cabinet ministers to other policies which affect the public.

Mr Piyabutr said he will deliver an opening statement on behalf of the FFP during the no-confidence debate, after which FFP MPs who had signed up for the debate will take turns grilling the government.

He also brushed aside criticism dismissing FFP as a "political rookie" with no experience in censure debates, saying the party will add a new dimension to the no-confidence debate.

"[FFP] has information which will deliver a knockout punch to the government," said Mr Piyabutr.

He went on to say the information remains a closely-guarded secret which hasn't been shared with other opposition parties over concerns it may be leaked to the government.

While Mr Piyabutr conceded the government will win the motion because it commands a majority in the House, he said the debate is important because it will expose the government's serious flaws to the public -- undermining its legitimacy and hurting its credibility to govern.

"It remains to be see whether the debate will cause rifts within the coalition," he said.

When asked about the case against the party relating to the 191-million-baht loan extended to the FFP by Mr Thanathorn, Mr Piyabutr said the Constitutional Court judges will need some time to deliberate.

"I'm confident the party will be able to remain intact throughout the censure debate," he said, before adding the FFP submitted its defence to the court on Jan 28.

Addressing Thailand's political future, Mr Piyabutr said the government has yet to resolve a number of crucial issues, which may potentially become "explosive" in the future if they remain unaddressed.

The first, he said, are basic bread-and-butter issues affecting millions of Thais for over five years now for which there was still little relief in sight.

"The current government, which is simply a continuation of the coup-installed administration, has failed in this regard," he said.

The second, Mr Piyabutr added, is the double standards in the justice system which clearly treats certain people differently from others under the same system.

Last but not least is the constitution, which he said was designed in such a way that it favours impasse over unity, leaving conflicts to bubble away instead of resolving them.

"Dissatisfaction over these issues will grow and build up until it eventually explodes," he said.

"The government must carefully consider how it wants to handle these issues.

"We should learn from the past -- the government must assure [a coup] won't happen again."

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