Senators Protest Plan to Slash Their Salaries for COVID-19 Funds

A file photo of a Senate meeting.
A file photo of a Senate meeting.

BANGKOK — The Senate on Wednesday reversed a plan to slash part of the lawmakers’ salaries as a contribution to a government’s coronavirus response fund following a protest from some of its members. 

Instead of a mandatory reduction as proposed by the Senate Speaker, the program will now be based on a voluntary basis, upper house sec-gen Nut Phasuk said. He said 50,000 baht will be taken off salaries of Senators who opted in and donated to the ongoing effort to fight the coronavirus epidemic.

“We are asking for their cooperation to donate 50,000 baht,” Nut said. “It’s not compulsory and they can choose any method they prefer such as giving up their salaries or transferring from their bank accounts. We have done something like this many times in the past, and all senators agreed every time.”

The plan was first proposed by Senate Speaker Pornpetch Wichit­cholachai, who told the media yesterday that the upper house is considering to give up their salaries for the pandemic fund. According to the official info, each Senator receives 71,230 baht as their base salary, with an additional 42,330 baht as the allowance.

He also said 20 percent of the unused budget allocated to the Senate is already donated to the government’s fight against COVID-19.

Pornpetch’s call was met with support from some of the senators like Seri Suwanpanont, who said on the same day that he is willing to bankroll all of his salary to the cause.

“I believe every senator would agree with the donation,” Seri said. “Some may contribute more or less than others because each senator has different financial needs. Every senator continues working during this situation. We keep discussing the situation and donating things to the people.”

But not everyone shared his opinion. Senator Kittisak Rattanawaraha objected to the proposal, saying that the donation will not make much difference.

“Even if every MP and senator gives up their salaries for three months, the sum would only be 300 million baht, which would not be able to fix anything much,” Kittisak said.

He also saw it as a political ploy by someone who is willing to undermine solidarity of the upper house.

“The government already has a budget for that. Those who proposed this idea just want to stir their political gains,” Kittisak said. “Every senator has already made donations on a regular basis, but we don’t make it a news. I ask those who don’t like the Senate not to make a drama out of this issue.”