Political heat in Thailand

17 07 2009

Several important stories to mention for readers who haven’t already seen them, relating to legal cases for PAD and Democrats, red shirt agitation and the Thaksin pardon campaign.

First, in the Nation (17 July 2009: “EC moves to disqualify 13 govt MPs”) reports that the 2007 Constitution has caught Democrat Party parliamentarians out. Reversing an earlier Election Commission committee decision, the EC “ruled against the 13 Democrats on grounds they were not supposed to own any equity stakes in mass-media companies or companies holding state concessions even before taking up their MP seat.” Included in this is Democrat Party power broker Suthep Taugsuban.

The EC stated that is was applying the “same standard used when it disqualified a group of Senators on an identical charge.” It is reported that the “14 other Democrat MPs facing the same charge were also found to have bought debentures, not company shares, so they did not infringe the charter’s ban on equity holdings.”

The provision they appear to have infringed is one of those that was specifically anti-Thaksin in origin. If this case goes forward, the Democrat-led coalition government is in serious trouble.

The second story relates to charges against PAD for occupying Bangkok’s airports. The Bangkok Post (17 July 2009: “PAD convinces police to review charges”) reports that police are now reconsidering the charges: “With tensions rising between police and the PAD, chief investigator Wut Puawes met with about 1,000 PAD supporters at the Police Club on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road to try to restore calm. He said investigators would review the PAD’s arguments and evidence handed to him by their lawyer, Suwat Apaipak.” PAD would not acknowledge the charges, meaning that the usual legal processes were avoided.

The third story is about a red shirt clash with police in Chiang Mai, reported by the Nation (17 July 2009: “Police clash with red-shirt protesters”) with police dispersing red shirts following a five-hour confrontation at Phuphing police station. The tension began when “red shirts tried to hold a rally at Chiang Mai Airport to protest against Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij and Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai.  One of the rally organisers, Niyom Luangcharoen, was detained by police after the discovery that he was carrying a pistol without a license.”

The fourth story is from the Bangkok Post (17 July 2009) regarding the increasing desperation to prevent the UDD’s royal pardon petition for Thaksin. Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga slammed the royal pardon campaign saying “he had the authority to decide whether to accept a request for a pardon and forward it to His Majesty the King for consideration. He had decided the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship’s appeal for the royal pardon was futile.” Pirapan asked the red shirt supporters to stop their campaign while questioning UDD motives.

Meanwhile, “PM’s Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey said he will give the justice minister airtime on the state-run Channel 11 television to clear public confusion over the red shirt’s petition drive. Mr Sathit said the red shirts had decided to change tack by trying to collect signatures to ‘lodge a complaint’ with the King instead of seeking the royal pardon as originally planned.”

In the same story, Puea Thai MP Surapong Towijakchaikul said “Thaksin made it clear he intends to be Puea Thai leader and that he is ready to make a comeback and stand at the next general election.”

And, the “Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions yesterday began hearing witnesses in the case involving the seizure of Thaksin’s assets worth 76 billion baht.”

Politics is heating up again in Thailand.

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