The Economic Crisis, Political Corruption, and the No-Confidence Debate

Southeast Asian Affairs, January 1, 2000 | Go to article overview
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The Economic Crisis, Political Corruption, and the No-Confidence Debate


The Chuan government entered the year 1999 with a no-confidence motion by the opposition parties. The debate took place on 28 to 30 January 1999. Instead of targeting the whole cabinet, the opposition adopted a new strategy of attacking only three key ministers who were close to Prime Minister Chuan and who were key figures in the Democrat Party. Apart from Minister of Finance Tarrin Nimmanahaeminda, the other two were Sanan Kachornprasat, the Interior Minister, and Suthep Tueksuban, the Communications Minister. Sanan served as the party's secretary-general and was known to be one of the most powerful figures in the party. There had been speculation that Suthep would succeed Sanan as the secretary-general. The opposition hoped to damage the three in order to destabilize the coalition.

As mentioned above, economic issues were some of the debate topics. But corruption, malpractices, and mismanagement in various government agencies were also featured. Chuan was known for his integrity, and he had emphasized time and again that honesty and transparent management were his top priorities. Thus, if the opposition could prove that his ministers had been guilty of corruption, the Prime Minister could be in trouble.

During the three-day debate, Interior Minister Sanan was assailed on a number of issues, ranging from the Kanchanaburi land scandal and the controversial expressway toll hike, to the mishandling of legal aspects of the up-grading of the Police Department into the National Police Bureau. The opposition, led by the New Aspiration Party, claimed that they had enough evidence to prove Sanan's abuse of power and corruption and believed that after the debate the Democrat secretary-general and the Interior Minister would be isolated from the rest of the party. The Communications Minister was attacked on a number of issues, including the synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH) telephone scandal.

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