Thailand's new Parliament is homeless at least until next year

Various Thai political party leaders hold up agreements during a news conference to form a "democratic front" in Bangkok, Thailand, on March 27, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thailand's new Parliament formally opens on Friday (May 24) after March's general election but has nowhere permanent to call home.

A dedicated US$380 million (S$524 million) complex in Bangkok is years behind schedule, forcing politicians to meet in an auditorium rented from state-run firm TOT.

The prime minister may be selected in the temporary hall as early as next week.

"The new Parliament will be ready for use probably late next year," said Mr Pakpoom Srichamni, the president of Sino-Thai Engineering & Construction, the project's contractor. He said the handover of necessary land was delayed.

The design of the new riverside building is based on Buddhist cosmology, with a golden spire-like structure as the centrepiece to promote moral character among politicians. Its name, Sappayasapasathan, means the place to carry out good deeds.

Construction began before the most recent military takeover in coup-prone Thailand in 2014. The 424,000 sq m Parliament is expected to be one of the world's largest administrative buildings.

The old parliament house closed down, as the compound reportedly had to be returned to the Royal Household Bureau. King Maha Vajiralongkorn ceremonially opens Parliament later on Friday at the Foreign Ministry.

The disputed March election followed almost five years of military rule. No single party emerged with a lower house majority and a coalition government has yet to be formed.

Mr Pakpoom said Sino-Thai Engineering & Construction plans to seek as much as US$94 million in compensation from the state for delays, once the project is completed.

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