Opposition MPs begin mass resignation

BANGKOK (AFP): Thailand’s largest opposition party staged a mass resignation today in a bid to force the government to call a general election. The New Aspiration Party (NAP) said 50 of its 116 MPs – including leader Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and secretary general Wan Muhamad Nor Matha – had quit and 41 planned to follow later in the day, the first of the new parliamentary session. The leader of the second-biggest opposition group, the Social Action Party (SAP), asked Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai to withdraw the budget bill which was due to be tabled today. SAP leader Suwit Khunkitti backed the NAP’s view that the budget should not be passed so close to elections, which must be held before November. “If this government fails to win the next election, the budget will be a fait accompli for the new government,” he told parliament. “For the sake of the nation, please withdraw the 2001 budget bill.” The resignations do not oblige the ruling coalition led by Chuan’s Democrats to dissolve parliament. But the opposition hopes its move will embarrass the government into calling an election before November, when its parliamentary term ends. “It is apparent now that our nation has been in a state of utmost decay … stemming from the inefficient and maladroit administration of the government,” the NAP said in a statement. The government had become so corrupt and inefficient, it added, that resignation was the “only course of action left”. Not all NAP MPs appeared to be convinced of this. Twenty-five of them have yet to make up their minds on resigning, party officials said, and five or six are likely to defect to another opposition grouping, the Chart Pattana. Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai condemned the resignations and ruled out a dissolution of parliament. “I do not admire the House members who quit today. Their actions are irresponsible,” he told parliament. Chuan has vowed not to be pressured into calling an election and has said the government will continue working on key legislation, including the budget. Bangkok-based analysts have said the NAP leadership’s resolution could prove disastrous for the party, by giving voters the impression that the opposition was willing to sacrifice the budget and other priorities in return for political gains. The resignation threat, issued over the weekend, has already depressed activity on Thailand’s stock exchange, and analysts say it is damaging investor confidence. Under a six-party coalition the Democrats control 223 of the parliament’s 393 seats, a commanding majority that has frustrated the opposition. No-confidence motions last year also failed to force an election.

Phuket News

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