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A clean slate for Thai democracy?

Updated On: Jul 28, 2006

In a shocking turn of events that startled even Thaksin, former Elections Commissioners Pol. Gen Wasana Permlarp, Prinya Nakchudtree and Veerachai Naewboonnien were sentenced to jail terms of four years after the Criminal Court found them guilty of mishandling the April 2 elections.

Not even their resignations in the hope of mitigating their sentences could dissuade the courts from releasing them.

Earlier, the Bangkok Post reported that the Criminal Court and Appeals Court had “rejected their bail applications on Tuesday, arguing that they could inflict damage on the election process leading to a crisis if they returned to work during the appeal process”. It also noted that the Supreme Court also refused to grant bail because “the trio had committed a serious crime detrimental to the constitutional monarchy, and caused a rift in the country... [such that] their release could cause further damage and obstruct legal proceedings against them”.

The bail rejection was apparently not what the ex-commissioners had expected. The three “had given away food from relatives and friends to corrections officials and changed from shorts to trousers, in anticipation of freedom”, while pending the Supreme Court’s decision.

Now that the decision is out, the search for a new panel of five for the Elections Commission is on. However, the Nation quoted Senator Chirmsak Pinthong as saying “I would like the October 15 election to go ahead as scheduled. But when I look at all the facts, I think it is impossible to meet the deadline, unless we pick the members without doing the screening process… I think delaying the election date for another month to November is the most probable solution.”

Thaksin remains expressly upbeat about the Thai Rak Thai’s chances despite being surprised at the verdict. Trying to maintain a clean image, Thaksin said, “Actually it is good that there will be a new EC because the party can end all allegations that we won the [April] election because of the EC… If we win this election, the public will believe that we are innocent and the opposition cannot claim that we won because the EC helped us.”

He also called upon TRT members to have confidence in their mission and that they would return triumphant in the October election to continue to do “good deeds” in promoting education among the poor, helping small business set-ups, and the drug addict-rehabilitation.

Noting that the political landscape had changed, he warned the TRT members to abide by the rules and to genuinely address problems, saying, “You are MP candidates. Do not act like you have won the election. Talk to voters about economic and social problems but do not talk about politics. Surveys show the public is bored with political wars of words.”

It looks like Thaksin is all geared up and preparing his TRT party for the elections.   

Sources:

Second bid for freedom thrown out (Bangkok Post, 27 July 2006)

PM: Many in TRT suited for top job (Bangkok Post, 27 July 2006)

Most people believe next election to be clean and fair: survey (The Nation, 27 July 2006)

Criminal Court to take legal action against EC supporters (The Nation, 27 July 2006)

Supreme Court denies bail for 3 ex-EC members

Selection process could delay Oct 15 poll (The Nation, 27 July 2006)

EC trio quit but denied bail (The Nation, 27 July 2006)

Thaksin 'amazed' at jail terms (The Nation, 27 July 2006)

Guilty trio 'should reimburse the Bt2-billion cost of national poll' (The Nation, 27 July 2006)

Reshuffle doubts without EC nod (The Nation, 27 July 2006)

30 days needed to replace EC: Suchon (The Nation, 27 July 2006)

Politics and annual reshuffles (Bangkok Post, 26 July 2006)

EC trio in Klong Prem jail (Bangkok Post, 26 July 2006)

Judges rule guilt 'beyond doubt' (Bangkok Post, 26 July 2006)

Premier cornered again as court hands down verdict (The Nation, 26 July 2006)

PM outflanked ahead of annual military reshuffle (The Nation, 26 July 2006)