Signal from the Pheu Thai leader on Monday follows a strong warning from the Prime Minister on Thursday that the rejection of the budget would have catastrophic repercussions and cause hardship for Thai families especially in the farming community.

The Pheu Thai leader Sompong Amornvivat has indicated that the opposition will not do anything to torpedo the government’s budget bill which comes before parliament on October 17th for a two-day debate but did suggest that MPs would use the opportunity to highlight areas of disagreement notably on defence spending.

The Thai Prime Minister (right) last Thursday warned of severe consequences for Thailand and particularly farmers if the budget bill was defeated in the House of Representatives. On Monday, the opposition and Pheu Thai leader Sompong Amornvivat (left) indicated that defeat of the bill was unlikely but pointed out that this does not mean that the opposition was required to endorse it.

The opposition leader Sompong Amornvivat strongly hinted that the 7 party coalition will not seek to defeat the  2020 budget after it’s first reading later this month on October 17th. The bill will have its second and third readings on January 28th and 29th when the government hopes it will be in a position to submit it for approval by the King.

Prime Minister warned on Thursday of dire consequences if the bill failed to pass

It comes days after Prime Minister Prayuth Chan ocha warned of grave consequences for the nation and the many Thai people if the 3.2 trillion spending package were to be defeated in the House of Representatives.

Controversy over Pattani constitutional change public meeting on September 28th

The Thai PM made his comments on Thursday amid a turbulent and fractious time as the government and opposition prepare to fight bye-elections, a delicate balance in the lower house and the beginnings of a campaign by opposition parties to amend the 2017 constitution.

Since Thursday, a serious legal controversy has flared up over the opposition’s constitutional amendment campaign which has seen a criminal complaint lodged by the Internal Security Operations Command in Pattani against key opposition leaders and academics.

On Sunday, the opposition, in turn, filed a defamation complaint against army officers. 

It follows a public meeting in Pattani on September 28th in which a change to Section 1 of the Thai constitution was proposed by an academic.

The section defines Thailand as one indivisible kingdom. This led to the police complaint being lodged by the army on the grounds that the comments were seditious.

Government coalition has a small working majority in the House of Representatives

The government has a very slim majority in the House of Representatives with control of only 251 of the 500 seats. However, the opposition is weakened by the loss of several MPs from the chamber and presently can only muster 244 votes. 

Budget bills can be notoriously unpredictable and the governing coalition is comprised of quite a few small but volatile parties. If the government were to be defeated on the measure, it would be forced to step down. 

It would also have disastrous consequences for the economy, already weakened, as the government seeks to prime the pump of economic growth to keep the country above water in the midst of challenging world economic conditions.

Warning from the PM on Thursday speaking with the National Council of Farmers in Bangkok

On Thursday, General Prayuh was speaking to the National Farmers Council in Bangkok. He highlighted the priority that his government was giving to farmers.

 ‘What the government is doing now is to custom-tailor shirts for each type of farmer. Marketing and promotional campaigns are being tailor-made for each kind of farmer so that everyone can grow together, he explained ‘This will help save on budget and require less cloth for maximum benefits.’

The prime minister praised the farming community and described the industry as the foundation of the Thai economy and the country’s economic stability.

Opposition may not endorse the budget but is aware of the consequences if the bill was defeated 

On Monday, the Pheu Thai leader said that while the opposition parties may not endorse or support the government’s budget, he was aware of the undesirable consequences if the measure were to be defeated.

Mr Sompong pointed out that not all MPs had to support the budget in the house and compared it pointedly to the unanimous vote required to change or alter Thailand’s constitutional arrangements. ‘The fact that opposition MPs will not raise their hands will not cause the House to reject the proposed budget,’ he said.

Critical of  defence spending – ‘buying submarines is not smart since we are not at war with anyone’

He also said that he would like to see a three-day debate on the budget measure rather than two. He said the opposition welcomed the opportunity to go through the provisions in detail.

He singled out the government’s spending policies on defence for criticism. ‘For example, buying submarines is not smart spending since we are not at war with anyone.’ he observed archly.

Further reading:

Opposition parties lodge defamation and criminal complaints against key army officers on Sunday