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Thailand grappling with the next elections

Updated On: May 16, 2006

Thailand's highest law courts are stepping up pressure on the election commissioners (ECs) to step down to clear the way for a fresh general election.

This comes despite the commissioners' offer for judges to oversee the next election. Virat Chinvinijkul, secretary to the Supreme Court, publicly called for the four commissioners Wassana Permlarp, Parinya Nakchatree, Veerachai Naewboonnian and Charupat Ruangsuwan to quit, saying the Constitution Court had already stated that the 2 April 2006 election was unconstitutional. Some possible dates for the new elections have been set for October.

Political wrangling will continue for some time as some of the election commissioners refused to bow to pressure for them to step down.  Bangkok Post ran an article on possible reasons behind the refusal to step down: “An EC official at the operational level said the four election commissioners were reluctant to resign for fear of being prosecuted for questionable expenses, as well as failure to complete a large number of verdicts, although some of these had already been implemented.”

Amidst the political furor going on in Thailand, several events added to the mysterious circumstances surrounding the EC, for e.g. EC chairman Wassana Permlarp’s abrupt departure to Australia. The official reason he gave was that he was visiting his son who was studying in Australia. Some people speculate that he may fail to return for the crucial meeting with political parties for the polls as well as the EC meeting to consider the cheating allegations against Thai Rak Thai.

As the politicking looks set to drag on for a while, the Thai business sector has come out to speak against the political disorder created by the run-up to the new elections, fearing that the economy would take a blow if it becomes prolonged.  They invoked the name of the King to appeal for order. According to the Nation, former deputy prime minister and finance minister Virabongsa Ramangkula used the Asia Petrochemical Industry conference at the Shangri-La Hotel to warn the Kingdom's sparring factions to follow HM the King's advice and work together to solve the political crisis.

An astute observer, he warned that "if the political parties do not act swiftly the economy will be ruined and that "a caretaker government is incapable of effective economic management". The former deputy prime minister was also afraid that the currently steep oil prices and high costs of construction would add on to political uncertainties in Thailand and hurt its economy at a time when East Asian economies look rosy regionally.

Sources:

Pressure mounts on commissioners (Bangkok Post, 13 May 2006)

TRT party to defend itself before EC (Bangkok Post, 13 May 2006)

Commissioners offer compromise (The Nation, 13 May 2006)

TRT returns fire over fraud accusations (The Nation, 13 May 2006)

Government must step in now, says Virabongsa (The Nation, 13 May 2006)