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Political crisis or political circus?

Updated On: Jun 30, 2006

It must seem as if more and more spanners are thrown in the works, obstructing the resolution of the political mess.

Indeed, things are turning out to be a bit of a circus when the fact-finding panel headed by Deputy Attorney-General Chaikasem Nitisir seemed determined to prosecute not only the Thai Rak Thai party but also the Democrat party for alleged election fraud. Three smaller parties –Prachatippatai Kao Na, Pattana Chart Thai and Pan Din Thai –were also said to have also committed similar fraud and were slated to be similarly dissolved.

The spokesman for the Office of the Attorney-General, Atthapol Yaisawang, said that the “committee has voted unanimously to forward to the Attorney-General a recommendation to ask the Constitution Court to dissolve the five political parties altogether”. No date has been given for the hearings, but a petition will soon be filed with the court. As can be expected, both the Democrat and TRT parties have sworn innocence. Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva declared, “After all is said and done, truth and righteousness will prevail.” Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said the same, claiming, “As a legal entity this party has never made a decision that is immoral, but we respect the decision of all agencies and understand that everyone is just doing their job.”

In any case, many believe that it is all a farce and nothing will be achieved in the end. Analysts quoted by the Bangkok Post believe that “adding the Democrats to the list of political parties that the Constitution Court has been asked to dissolve is a bargaining chip to keep the ruling Thai Rak Thai party alive… [It is doubtful that] the Constitution Court would hand down a ruling to dissolve all five parties, especially the Thai Rak Thai and Democrats, because of the political crisis such a decision would spawn”.

Suriyasai Katasila, secretary-general of the Campaign for Popular Democracy, stated that the decision to sue the Democrats was merely to assuage the outrage of the TRT supporters. He believes that ultimately the judgment will find no offenders. Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, public administration dean of the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida), agrees. He believes that dissolving the parties would escalate the political crisis and that was something that Thailandcould ill afford. Thus, he thinks that “the Constitution Court would likely vindicate both parties, and then everything would be back to square one”, the Bangkok Post reported.

Be that as it may, the penalty of conviction is not extremely severe. It is said that if convicted, “the leaders and other executive members of the five parties would be barred from holding party executive posts for five years” but “they could still run for parliament and hold political office”.

Outgoing Senator Sophon Supapong has commented that the TRT would not be adversely affected if dissolved as the party executives can use their money to “manipulate a party and politcs”, they can “set up (a new party), just like a franchise, whenever they want”, he told reporters.

As the political confusion continues, so does the southern crisis. Militants have increased their offensives this week, and the government has raised the security alert to the highest level on the basis of intelligence reports that “insurgents planned to bomb 50 targeted locations”. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra wasted no time in blaming General Sonthi Boonyaratglin of being ineffective in handling the violence, saying, “I have told him [Sonthi] on several occasions. He still has to make adjustments.” Others have said that civilian agencies are not cooperating with Sonthi in resolving the conflict, continuing to take orders from Deputy Prime Minister Chidchai Vanasatidya, making Sonthi’s work harder than necessary.

Sources:

PM accuses Army chief Sonthi of being slow to act against violence (Bangkok Post, 29 June 2006)

Protest threat if Democrat party canned (Bangkok Post, 29 June 2006)

Chart Thai to sit out the storm, sees no windfall (Bangkok Post, 29 June 2006)

Big parties putting on brave face (Bangkok Post, 29 June 2006)

Opinions divided over political future (The Nation, 29 June 2006)

Democrats unbowed, to take fight to PM (The Nation, 29 June 2006)

Two killed, seven injured in gun attacks in Narathiwat's five districts (The Nation, 29 June 2006)

Charter Court has its work cut out (Bangkok Post, 28 June 2006)

Fiasco could drag out till 2007, if top court is slow (The Nation, 28 June 2006)

TRT, Democrats on brink (The Nation, 28 June 2006)

Six dead in series of bombings, shootings in Yala, Narathiwat (The Nation, 28 June 2006)

Democrats added to list to 'calm' TRT nerves (Bangkok Post, 28 June 2006)

Rivals to face court (Bangkok Post, 28 June 2006)

Top political parties may have to disband (Bangkok Post, 28 June 2006)

Another bombing wave feared in South (Bangkok Post, 28 June 2006)