Parliament set to debate policies

Parliament set to debate policies

Two-day session to test Prayut's grip

The opposition will be given 13.5 hours in a two-day parliamentary session starting next Thursday to debate new government policies in what is believed will be Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's first real battle in parliament.

Ministers, MPs in the coalition camp and senators will have five hours each during the debate which will last about 28 hours in total, chief government whip Virat Rattanaset said on Friday.

But this does not include time allotted to Gen Prayut, also the defence minister, who will officially submit the policies.

The schedule has been jointly agreed by both the government and opposition whips.

Despite the prospect of heated debate, Mr Virat said there is no need to set up a "guard team" of MPs to defend the government.

He said he asked opposition MPs to focus on the policies, not controversies surrounding Gen Prayut's qualifications, which were already clarified.

Mr Virat said he believes MPs are mature enough to decide on what they should and should not do and that Gen Prayut can control his emotions.

It will be the first time for Gen Prayut, who is known for his quick temper, to taste a real verbal war in parliament after his all-powerful mandate as head of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) over the past five years ended.

He will face questions on his former NCPO status, which is viewed as violating the charter, Pheu Thai heavyweight Chalerm Ubumrung warned.

The 72-year-old politician is not an MP but he said his colleagues will include this controversy among other issues to try and take Gen Prayut and his government to task.

"I can assure Gen Prayut of one thing. The session is going to be hell for him," Pol Capt Chalerm said, adding that time is up for his military-style leadership in which he can easily order people to do what he wants.

Leading Pheu Thai figure Sudarat Keyuraphan, who complained that 13.5 hours for the opposition was too little, posted on her Facebook account yesterday that Gen Prayut must stand and answer MPs.

"But the premier should not worry," she wrote. "This is a normal mechanism to keep the government in check."

Some other ministers will also face a tough time if their policies or qualifications raise questions.

Pol Capt Chalerm warned Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul against his Bhumjaithai campaign promise to allow householders to plant marijuana as this will lead to legal complications regarding international agreements on drugs that Thailand has signed.

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