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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs           26   August  2011

Chaos reigns in Thai parliament

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Pheu Thai carries Thailand

A Thai parliamentary session to debate the policy statement delivered by the new Pheu Thai government was thrown into chaos on Wednesday night before it was cancelled for a lack of a quorum.

This is not a good beginning for House Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranon, who is likely to find it tough to keep MPs under control.

The cancellation of the session indicates there is no guarantee that the Pheu Thai-led coalition government can always benefit from having the majority of the House seats and a House speaker known for his strict approach to maintaining order. The session concluded Thursday.

As the ruling party with the majority of House seats, the onus is on Pheu Thai to ensure there are enough party MPs present when the House meets.

Whenever a House session has to be called off because of a lack of quorum, the Pheu Thai party must shoulder that responsibility. Half of the MPs have to be present to constitute a quorum and the party controls more than half of the House.

Pheu Thai cannot underestimate the opposition Democrat Party which is skilled at using parliamentary regulations to its advantage.

The opposition Democrats’ protest against House Speaker Somsak during the policy debate on Wednesday is a case in point.

Mr. Somsak has earned the nickname "The Hammer Man" for his strict approach to ensuring MPs behave themselves during House sessions.

However, Mr Somsak's ability to maintain neutrality when he chairs House meetings has been called into question and he will be forced to deal with the tough task of handling protesting MPs during future House sessions.

During the policy debate on Wednesday, the Democrats fiercely protested against Mr. Somsak's rules barring them from debating the government's policy on protecting the royal institution, and from criticizing former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The Democrats also protested against a government proposal for a motion to end the policy debate despite the fact there was still time for the opposition to question government leaders. They said the House Speaker was showing bias against the opposition.

Yet Mr. Somsak called off the meeting after he called a quorum count twice and found the meeting lacked enough bodies despite efforts to call government MPs into the House to fill out the numbers.


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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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