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Puea Thai won’t refile dissolution funds case

Posted by arnon_k On December - 1 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

The Puea Thai Party will not bring another lawsuit against the Democrat Party in the Constitution Court over the alleged misspending of the 29 million baht electoral fund in 2005, Puea Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit said on Wednesday.

The party’s legal team met today to discuss whether it should file a new charge against the prime minister’s party. They agreed not to do it, said Mr Prompong.

The Constitution Court’s ruling, dropping the 29 million baht fund case against the Democrat Party, was final, he said.

Although the case is over, many people still have doubts about the case because the decision was based on a legal technicality, and not whether the Democrat Party actually misspent the funds, he added.

On Monday, the Constitution Court voted 4:2 to drop the case in which the party was accused by the Election Commission (EC) of misusing a 29 million baht grant from the EC during its campaigning for the April 2, 2005 general election.

The four judges who voted to dismiss the case out said that the EC chairman, the ex officio political party registrar, had failed to submit the case to the court within 15 days of being notified, in his capacity as registrar, that the grant might have been misused.

Former Thai Rak Thai executive Chaturon Chaisang, who is serving a five-year political ban, said Constitution Court judges, not election commissioners, should resign in the interests of upholding justice.

Mr Chaturon said that EC chairman and party registrar Apichart Sukhagganond was working under the same laws and regulations that were applied in past party dissolution cases.

He said the charter court in 2007 accepted the EC’s petition to dissolve the People Power Party even though the EC took more than the legal 15 days to file it.

He said the court should not have accepted the EC’s petition against the Democrats in the first place if the procedure was wrong.

EC member Sodsri Satthayatham defended the EC.

She said the commission works strictly according to legal procedure and has not ignored the statute of limitations of the case.

According to Mrs Sodsri, EC chairman Apichart Sukhagganond had initially suggested the commission stall the petition and set up a committee to examine the case further, and that he said he made the suggestion as the EC chairman, not the ex officio party registrar.

She said the committee had a three-month timeframe to study the case and the committee resolved that the EC should file the petition against the Democrat Party with the Constitution Court.

She said the commissioners voted on whether the petition should be filed on April 12 this year and the case was submitted to the court on April 26.

The June 24 Democratic group, an ally of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), called on all five members of the Election Commission to resign.

The group’s core leader Somyos Plueksakasemsuk said the EC chairman and the other four commissioners should step down because of their failure to submit the case in the alleged misuse of the 29 million baht electoral grant within the legal timeframe. This failure had saved the Democrat Party from dissolution, according to Mr Somyos.

Mr Somyos said the court’s decision would only increase the number of red-shirt supporters of the UDD, as it clearly showed that the alleged double standards really exist.

Democrats to face second disbandment case

Posted by arnon_k On December - 1 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

The Constitution Court has yet to convene and set a date commencing its inquiry into the alleged Bt258 million bogus campaign contribution involving the Democrats, judge Charan Pakdithanakul said on Wednesday.
The judicial review on alleged wrongdoing punishable be party disbandment will take place in the wake of Monday’s verdict to dismiss the case on the Bt 29 million misuse of state fund.
Charan said he was uncertain about the inquiry date since the scheduling hinged on a collective decision made by nine judges of the high court.
For the Monday’s decision, six of nine judges presided over the case but it remains unclear at this juncture whether all nine will sit on the second Democrat case, he said.
In related development, Election Commission member Prapun Naigowit said the second Democrat case was on tract to undergo the judicial review but it might have a lower profile since Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had no involvement in it.
Abhisit could have been disqualified from office if the Monday’s verdict was unfavourable.

Prosecutors gird for next round

Posted by arnon_k On December - 1 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

Democrats hope to have latest case dismissed
The Office of the Attorney-General expects the case against the Democrat Party over a suspected illegal donation to go ahead despite the Constitution Court on Monday dismissing a case against the party over alleged abuse of an election grant.
The OAG said yesterday the charges in the two cases were quite different, but the Democrats’ defence team still plans to ask the court to dismiss the donation case.

The party hopes to use the court’s decision on Monday to drop the charge of misuse of a 29million baht political party development grant as the basis for asking for the case involving the multi-million baht donation to be thrown out as well.

The Democrat Party has been accused of accepting an illicit donation of 258 million baht from cement giant TPI Polene Plc without declaring it. It faces possible dissolution if found guilty.

Deputy Attorney-General Waiyawuth Lortrakul said yesterday prosecutors were ready to contest the Democrats’ request for the case to be dismissed.

He said the prosecutors saw the donation charge as distinct from the case related to the 29 million baht grant.

The two cases have different grounds to proceed and the legal provisions that needed to be enforced were also not the same, said Mr Waiyawuth, who works on the prosecution team handling the 258 million baht case.

Election Commission member Prapun Naigowit yesterday insisted the case of the donation would not run into the same technical hurdles over the time frame for submission required by law as that involving the grant.

He felt EC chairman Apichart Sukhagganond, as the political party registrar, had done his best in the funds case and should not bow to the pressure being put on him to resign to take responsibility for the matter being dismissed.

He said the legal provisions governing the dissolution of political parties might need to be amended.

“The dissolution of a political party is a major issue, but the legal 15-day time frame is too short,” he said.

The Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation has ordered security officers to provide protection for the Constitution Court judges amid fears they could be attacked following their decision which spared the Democrats.

Chalerm Yubamrung, leader of the Puea Thai Party MPs, said yesterday he planned to seek the impeachment of the four judges who ruled in favour of the Democrats on Monday.

Mr Chalerm said he would ask his party to file a motion with the Senate seeking to oust the four charter court judges under Section 270 of the constitution.

If the four judges were not found guilty, he said he would then move on to petition to expel Mr Apichart.

The EC chairman should be held responsible for failing to submit the case related to the misuse of the 29million baht grant in time, Mr Chalerm said.

The Constitution Court yesterday issued a statement explaining why four of its six judges voted to drop the charge of misusing the grant.

The statement said three of the judges ruled to dismiss the charge because a recommendation by Mr Apichart during an EC meeting on April 12 this year that the Democrat Party be dissolved was the EC chairman’s personal judgement. It was not seen as the political party registrar’s recommendation.

This meant the political party registrar had not come up with a recommendation that the Democrat Party be dissolved, the statement said.

The statement also said the commission’s resolution at its meeting on April 21 that the political party registrar would proceed with the dissolution case was procedurally incorrect and therefore unlawful.

The fourth judge ruled to dismiss the charge because it was clear Mr Apichart had failed to submit the case within the 15-day time frame required by law, according to the statement.

Democrats off the hook

Posted by arnon_k On November - 30 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

Donation case now looks shaky, say legal experts
Speculation is rife that the Democrat Party will also win the case against it of an alleged illegal donation after the Constitution Court spared it from dissolution by dismissing a charge of misuse of an election grant.

Six Constitution Court judges yesterday voted 4:2 to drop the case in which the party was accused by the Election Commission of misusing a 29 million baht grant from the EC during its campaigning for the April 2, 2005, general election.

The four judges who decided to throw out the case argued that the EC chairman, as the political party registrar, had failed – as required under the Political Parties Act – to submit the case to the court within 15 days of being notified that the grant might have been misused.

A source from the Constitution Court said the two judges who voted against dismissing the case were Chat Cholaworn, the court president, and Boonsong Kulbuppa.

The judges said the allegation that the party misused the grant came to the attention of the political parties registrar on Dec 17 last year, but the registrar only submitted the case to the court on April 26 this year.

This went beyond the 15-day time frame for submission of the case. This meant the move to dissolve the Democrats was unlawful and therefore there was no need to deliberate the rest of the legal issues related to the case, the judges said.

Chuan Leekpai, the head of the Democrats’ defence team, made the closing statement on behalf of the party. Kittinant Thachpramuk, public prosecutor in charge of special litigation, made the closing statement on behalf of the EC.

Parinya Thewanarumitkul, deputy rector of Thammasat University, said the EC’s failure to comply with the 15-day time frame was unexpected and was an important lesson for the EC.

Even though the case has now been dropped, members of the public are still in the dark over whether the Democrat Party had actually misused the grant, Mr Parinya said.

He said the court ruling yesterday might have implications on the other case in which the Democrat Party is accused of receiving an undisclosed donation of 258 million baht from cement giant TPI Polene.

Mr Parinya said the Democrat-led coalition government would face mounting pressure from its opponents, including the red shirt movement and the Puea Thai Party, now the court has spared it from dissolution.

He said the charter court has now freed itself from any predicament as the pressure has been shifted to the EC which failed to submit the case in time.

Komsan Photikong, a law lecturer at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, said the EC’s procedures seeking the dissolution of the party were unlawful from the beginning.

The Constitution Court judges’ decision to dismiss the case against the Democrat Party was right and legitimate, Mr Komsan said.

He agreed that anti-government protests would intensify as the government’s opponents were disgruntled with the court’s decision.

Bandit Siriphan, a member of the Democrat Party’s defence team, said he would ask the Constitution Court to consider dismissing the case involving the alleged illegal donation from TPI Polene as the EC had also failed to submit the case in time as required by law. The 15-day time frame and the proceedings in the case involving the 29 million baht grant were based on Section 93 of the constitution.

But Thanapit Moolapruek, director-general of the Office of the Attorney-General’s special litigation department, said the flaws in the case involving the 29 million baht grant would not be repeated in the 258 million baht donation allegation as the grounds to proceed in these two cases were different.

“These two cases differ in nature and in legal technicalities and legal proceedings. The Office of the Attorney-General has submitted the case involving the 258 million baht donation itself,” Mr Thanapit said.

EC commissioner Somchai Juengprasert admitted the EC may have to review its role as an organisation following the court’s decision.

He said EC members may raise the issue for discussion at today’s meeting to find out why things turned out the way they had.

Senator for Si Sa Ket Jittipoj Wiriyaroj, who chairs a senate committee on constitutional organisations, said some legal experts and members of the public still questioned why the court ruling focused on only one legal technicality and then decided to drop the case.

He called on the judges to disclose their reasons for dismissing the charge of misuse of the fund money to dispel lingering public doubt.

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