Is Thailand’s rubber stamp parliament a sign of things to come?
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Is Thailand’s rubber stamp parliament a sign of things to come?

The Bangkok Post:

The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) voted on Monday to accept in principle the 2015 budget bill, with the Education Ministry getting the biggest budget, followed by the Interior Ministry.

The members voted 183 in favour, with three abstentions.

Defence spending, which typically increases in Thailand after a coup, grew 5.3% from last year’s allocation to 193.50 billion baht.

“If we don’t increase the budget and purchase new weapons, then nobody will fear us,” Gen Prayuth told reporters.

BP: Those abstentions were from the NLA president and two deputies per standard convention.

The Bangkok Post has more:

Seventeen NLA members took part in the debate, all civilians. No military members stood to take part in the debate, even though they make up more than half of the 197 members.

“Don’t worry who will be prime minister or cabinet members. Whoever they are, we can control them and ensure they can work,’‘ Gen Prayuth said.

“Thank you for giving us useful advice and we will act on it. I’m pleased to be here and I hope I won’t be here again,” Gen Prayuth told the assembly.

BP: Hope, I won’t be here again? Does this mean he won’t be PM or doesn’t want to attend parliament again (Yingluck was criticized for her frequent absences)….

Who is the “we” there?

The Nation:

Reporters were banned from entering the usual areas where interviews with politicians took place. Instead, a podium was set up for NLA members in a hall on the first floor and they were interviewed there.

The members were punctual, arriving at Parliament by 10am as scheduled. Seventeen of them were asked to debate the budget bill and were each given 10 minutes to do so. No military officer was part of the debate.

The meeting functioned as if it were being regulated according to Army regulations. There were no protests from NLA members and no one chatted on a mobile phone, texted, or spoke to a colleague.

They listened attentively to the junta chief while he was proposing the bill.

During his speech, Prayuth appeared like a teacher giving a lecture to students.

“Thai people are capable. Many of them are nearly clever but others are not so smart. We need to help each other,” he said. “Does anyone have any problems? Does anyone disapprove [of the bill]?”

The members then voted unanimously to approve it.

BP: The lack of debate or any opposition is distinctly different from last year’s debate over the budget, but then again given the junta appointed all the NLA members, they are now merely functioning as a rubber stamp parliament…. Will they also turn out to be a law factory like the junta-installed legislature after the 2006 coup was with a hundred bills becoming law a week? (see herehere and here). All the procedural obstacles and having no opposition at all makes things easier, but yet when they draft the constitution, BP expects to see many restrictions on an elected government and how they and/or the parliament introduce legislation and spend the budget….