Thanathorn waits on ruling

Thanathorn waits on ruling

FFP chief's place on budget panel at risk

Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit
Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit

House Speaker Chuan Leekpai has been asked to rule whether Future Forward Party (FFP) leader and list-MP Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit is eligible to sit on the budget bill scrutiny panel as an outsider.

The ruling is being sought by Deputy House Speaker Suchart Tancharoen, who is in charge of parliamentary work related to the 2020 budget bill, ahead of the first meeting of the 64-member budget scrutiny committee on Thursday.

The FFP named Mr Thanathorn among its quota of eight representatives to serve on the budget examination panel, as a non-MP, on Saturday after the budget bill passed its first reading in the House.

Mr Thanathorn has been suspended as an MP by the Constitutional Court, pending its ruling on his status over a media shareholding dispute. Opinions are split on whether he can serve as a non-MP member.

In his ruling request, Mr Suchart included his opinion and that of the House Secretariat's legal affairs office.

The legal office argues Mr Thanathorn can serve on the committee, since previously an individual whose MP status was terminated by a court order had served on a budget panel as an outsider.

However, Mr Suchart argues it is not appropriate for Mr Thanathorn to be involved in the budget deliberation while his eligibility remains in doubt.

The ruling on Mr Thanathorn's eligibility is crucial because the budget bill is among the most important laws, and its deliberation must be thorough and transparent, he said.

Sira Jenjaka, a Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) MP for Bangkok, plans to ask the committee today to consider Mr Thanathorn's eligibility to take part in budget scrutiny before the committee starts its work. Mr Thanathorn's nomination as a committee member was endorsed by the majority of the House on Oct 19 without protest.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam on Wednesday warned the budget scrutiny panel to thoroughly study Section 144 of the charter, which governs finance bills, and avoid any conflicts of interest.

"Unlike previous budget scrutiny, this time round we have the new Section 144 which prohibits reallocation of budgets for personal use or gain. But redistribution of funds within a ministry shouldn't be a problem," he said.

Under Section 144, MPs, senators and committee members are prohibited from proposing changes to finance bills in a way that will directly or indirectly benefit them.

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