Court Kills Bill Approving Loans For Govt Mega-Project

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra giving a keynote speech at an event organised to promote the 2.2 trillion baht infrastructure project.

(12 March) The Constitutional Court has ruled that the bill intended to way for 2.2 trillion baht infrastructure overhaul is unconstitutional in its content and procedure.

The verdict came after the Democrat Party filed complaint to the court that the bill might be unconstitutional since it was designed to allow the government to borrow the fund for the infrastructure project without any oversight from the Parliament, contrary to the requirement described in Article 169 of the 2007 Constitution.

The plaintiff also argued that the effort in passing the bill violates the parliamentary procedures, as some MPs of the ruling Pheu Thai Party were seen voting for absent MPs in the voting session. 

Today the judges of the Constitutional Court sided with the plaintiff and declared the entire bill unconstitutional, citing its violation of Articles 169 and 170 of the Thai charter.

The verdict effectively sentenced the 2.2 trillion baht infrastructure scheme into a dubious limbo. Dubbed "mega-project" by some observers, the ambitious project aims for construction of high-speed railway and improvement of other transport infrastructures in the kingdom within 2020.

Governmental officials have argued that the project is desperately needed to modernise the notoriously poor state of public transportation in Thailand. 

But Mr. Wirat Kalyasiri, the former Democrat MP who filed the complaint to the Constitutional Court, said the Democrat Party has no intention to impede the nation's development – it only seeks to guarantee that the development would be transparent and worth the taxpayers' money.

The ruling also added more trouble to the embattled government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is facing other court cases and inquiries by the national anti-corruption body.

Ominously, Mr. Chaowana Traimart, secretary-general of the Constitutional Court, told reporters the court has agreed to deliberate on the request by the Ombudsman Office to have the 2 February election invalidated.

Transport Minister Chatchart Sittipan, who had been one of the most active promoters of the 2.2 trillion baht project, said he accepted the court's verdict on the project. He also insisted that the government has done its best, and that the bill was meant to benefit Thailand.

Mr. Chatchart stressed that he would not perceive the verdict in a negative light, since the government can still facilitate the infrastructure projects promised under the original scheme by borrowing the needed funds from other means.

Nevertheless, he expressed his concern that the court ruling will severely affect the confidence of both domestic and foreign investors. Mr. Chatchart said he hopes the next government will sort out the legal maze and pursue the project.