BANGKOK — Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha said on Monday that he is prepared to defend himself in the upcoming no-confidence debate slated to take place in February.
Representatives of the opposition camp said they plan to grill Prayut and his Cabinet over their alleged mismanagement in the coronavirus crisis in the censure debate, which will begin on Feb. 16. Prayut said he’s confident that the government will have answers for every question raised by the critics.
“I’ve seen you [the media] making such a big deal of the debate,” Prayut told reporters at Government House. “I’ll let the Parliament take its course, because I respect the Parliament. They have the authority to do so, so let them do it. My job is to explain myself.”
Schedules of the censure debate, including the date for the votes to be cast in the no-confidence motion, are still being discussed by the two sides, said Pheu Thai MP Suthin Klangsaeng.
“We have agreed that it’ll begin on Feb. 16,” Suthin, who also serves as the opposition whip, said by phone. “But we haven’t negotiated about the date of the vote yet. They give us four days. We want six. We’ll have to talk again, but it won’t take long.
Suthin said he’ll be one of the 15 Pheu Thai MPs leading the charge against Prayut and nine of his Cabinet members.
They include Public Health Minister Anutin Charnveerakul, who came under fire for his handling of the outbreak, as well as Deputy Premier Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who is the leader of the ruling Phalang Pracharath Party.
In the letter submitted to House Speaker Chuan Leekpai earlier today, the opposition said a no-confidence motion is necessary because of the government’s failure to contain the coronavirus pandemic, revive the economy, and defend freedom of expression.
The document also accused Prayut’s government of “damaging good relations between the monarchy and the public” by “using the monarchy as an excuse to deepen the division in the society,” possibly a reference to the ongoing crackdown under the draconian royal defamation law.
Prayut and his ministers are expected to survive the no-confidence motion, since the coalition continues to command the House majority.
But the debate, which is typically broadcast live on TV stations and news platforms, will be the most high profile challenge to Prayut’s administration at the time political gatherings remain banned under the Emergency Decree.
Another major opposition party, Move Forward, will field at least 10 MPs to address the Parliament during the censure debate, according to Move Forward MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn, who aimed to highlight Prayut’s streak of autocracy.
“Prayut is used to being a dictator,” Wiroj said by phone. “The habit often makes his administration incompetent.”
Wiroj added that he and his party are well aware that the Prayut and other ministers will certainly win the no-confidence vote when it is called, but said the debate will be helpful in educating the public on why Prayut failed them.
“We will ignite the discussions and win by presenting facts,” the politician said.
A similar sentiment was expressed by another opposition leader, Seri Ruam Thai Party chairman Sereepisuth Temeeyaves.
“The people will decide who the winner would be,” Sereepisuth said by phone. “Please don’t look at the scores, but look at the content.”
The former police commissioner said he’ll focus on the government’s failure to close down illegal gambling dens, which led to coronavirus clusters in several provinces.