MPs walk out of Covid oversight committee meeting
Opposition lawmakers walked out of a parliament meeting on Tuesday to protest against a lack of details in the government's plan to reallocate 88 billion baht to a central fund to fight Covid-19 and rehabilitate the economy.
The walkout was led by Worawat Ua-apinyakul, who sits on the ad-hoc committee vetting a draft bill on the budget transfer. The MPs abruptly left the meeting and accused the government coalition of trying to prevent them from doing their job.
The bill passed its first reading at the House of Representatives last week with 264 votes in its favour. There were four votes against the bill and 185 abstentions.
Mr Worawat, vice-chair of the ad-hoc committee, said without the details the panel cannot make thorough examinations. He said large amounts of the central fund were earmarked to solve drought problems, not help fight the outbreak.
He also voiced frustration at the Defence Ministry for hampering the panel's work, noting ministry representatives submitted a document marked "classified" to the committee for consideration but retracted it shortly after.
He said the document was about the government's plan to reallocate money to the central fund.
Mr Worawat criticised the chairman of his ad-hoc committee for refusing to call for the return of the document from the ministry.
He noted that the ministry slashed its own budget by almost 18 billion baht and returned it to the central fund.
The cut reportedly resulted in several weapons and military hardware procurement projects being shelved.
"The defence [ministry] is somehow 'untouchable'," Benja Saengchan, a committee member from Kao Klai Party, said.
"They claim the document was classified and […] took it back immediately; we did not manage to thoroughly examine the document."
She said now the ad-hoc committee members want to invite Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to provide the details they need on how the central fund will be spent, but its chairman does not see eye-to-eye with the members.