Thai govt to face close scrutiny from opposition party

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - Thailand's opposition MPs are set to scrutinise the Pheu Thai-led government's economic and other policies during the upcoming House sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Jurin Laksanavisit, a key figure in the Democrat Party and chief opposition whip, said some important details of the policy statement prepared by the new government were not consistent with the Pheu Thai Party's election promises.

For example, Pheu Thai pledged during the election campaign that it would raise the daily minimum wage to 300 baht (US$10) nationwide from the current 152 baht-220 baht (US$5-US$7) per day.

However, its policy statement does not use the word, "minimum wage". Instead, the term, "income" is used, raising doubt whether the new government will strictly keep its election promise.

In Thailand, the minimum wage is legally enforceable and determined by a tripartite committee, consisting of government, employer and employee representatives.

Jurin said another Pheu Thai Party election promise was to guarantee a starting monthly salary of 15,000 baht (US$495) to new college graduates. However, the policy statement does not use the term, "salary", but "income".

"Income" is a broader term that may include other allowances such as for food, housing and other items.

Jurin said the Opposition would also focus on how the government plans to finance the election promises and where the needed funds will come from.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her Cabinet are scheduled to deliver the policy statement to Parliament on Tuesday and Wednesday.

After the policies are examined by opposition MPs and senators, the Yingluck Cabinet can officially start their work.

Yingluck said she was ready to clarify to Parliament but it depended on the issues whether she would clarify them herself or let a minister do it.

Regarding the criticism that Pheu Thai had put many conditions on its policies as excuses not to implement them, Yingluck said, "They are not conditions but implementation guidelines. Everything that we promised in the election campaign is in the policies.

"The government is ready to clarify but please wait and listen on that day." said Yinluck. Asked whether the government was ready to start the policy implementation according to the time frame given during the election campaign, Yingluck said, "It is so, in general. In practice, we cannot identify the date, as some issues are involved with the market and overall circumstances. We will announce when the time comes."

Pheu Thai leader Yongyuth Wichaidit said Thai government would follow what it said during the campaign.

Asked whether some changes, such as the 300 baht (US$10) wage, would be available only in some provinces, Yongyuth said, "This is about implementation. How the principle of the daily wage will be in practice must depend on the people who implement that, too."

Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said the party's MPs would meet tomorrow to assign 20 MPs who took part in drafting the policies to speak, in addition to Yingluck. Another 30 MPs will be assigned to stop the Opposition from obstructing the policy declaration or asking irrelevant questions.

The opposition Democrat Party's former ministers will be advisers for teams of speakers to scrutinise the government's policies.

Former Thai deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban will help the team working on politics and security while other teams will work on the economy, social issues and foreign affairs.

The Opposition will have 11 hours to debate the government's plans. Forty Democrat speakers are expected to take the floor, while the party's quota is eight hours and 50 minutes.

Sixty MPs have proposed to speak, so the opposition whip will meet again tomorrow to decide on content and speakers, Jurin said.

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