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The outcome had to please someone and upset another. That much we could easily predict. It was the manner in which the Democrats got off the hook in the party dissolution case that surprised supporters and foes alike.
After months or speculation, anxiety and anticipation, the Constitution Court simply declared there was no case.

Immediate reactions from all parties were almost muted bewilderment. When the court announced that the case was being dropped, only about 40 minutes had passed in the reading of the ruling. For the Democrats and their supporters, relief came too fast. The other side was stunned and it took time for anger to sink in.

When the impact of the anti-climax fades, key questions will come to the fore. What took the court so long to arrive at the decision that the case had expired? Was Apichart Sukakanont, whose mixed-up roles as party registrar and chairman of the Election Commission contributed to the collapse of the case, in fact a “Trojan Horse”? How will the court ruling affect another party dissolution case against the Democrats? What will the red shirts do now?

So, what kept the court from throwing the case out from the start? One sympathetic explanation would be that doing so would have triggered furious reaction nonetheless. Or it could be that arguments against legitimacy of the case required inquiry into activities or technicality that needed time to clarify. Moreover, the trial allowed impression that the court did not imprudently reject the case out of hand.

Of course, rivals of the Democrats must be suspecting an “easy way out”. Even many neutral observers were bemused, saying they would rather see the court deal with “evidence” instead of technicality.

The court’s possible answer to that, however, may have to be read in between the lines of its ruling, which gave a lot of emphasis on Apichart’s double hats as political party registrar and EC chairman. The ruling noted that Apichart, as party registrar, had exercised his legal power one way and Apichart the EC chairman the other. From the ruling, the case collapsed around Apichart’s changes of stand and the EC’s mistimed activities in bid to formulate the charges.

Democrats’ political rivals, however, will put everything under a microscope. The Pheu Thai Party vowed an autopsy of the aborted case and relevant ones in the past. Previous dissolution of parties will be restudied and compared with yesterday’s ruling and no stone will be left unturned for any discrepancies.

By Tulsathit Taptim

Chuan stands tall when his party needs him

Posted by arnon_k On November - 30 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

Former PM delivers powerful closing statement to court about conspiracy against his party
It had been quite a while since the nation last heard Chuan Leekpai speak.

Yesterday it was as if he had not gone anywhere.

The same old eloquence, the same old “honey-coated razor cuts” and the same old neat blows below the belt were unleashed against his rivals in a powerful, passionate style, as Chuan delivered arguably his most important speech for his political party. Its survival may have been related to other factors as well, but Chuan’s closing statement at the end of the party dissolution case was a grand finale in itself.

Everyone knew the Democrats were claiming a conspiracy in their defence. Chuan’s task yesterday was to lend credibility to such an excuse. Although, for a divided society, it didn’t really matter whether he succeeded or not, the Democrats must have been grateful it was him who made the closing statement, and party opponents must have watched it with clenched jaws and boiling blood.

The voice was a bit softer and there were times when choked emotions were almost visible. With an anxious nation glued to TV sets to watch “Judgement Day”, Chuan’s apparently frail presence only added to the strength of what he delivered.

The closing statements by Chuan and prosecutors were strong in their own ways. The prosecution sought to hammer home the argument that the Democrats had committed wrongdoings and nothing else should have mattered, whatever they said. Chuan insisted that if the start of the prosecution process was wrong, the rest of it couldn’t be right.

Both sides had earlier submitted their closing statements in documents to the court. They have been in the newspapers, but had greater impact yesterday when delivered verbally.

Kitinan Tatchpramook, special attorney from the Office of the Attorney General, as the EC representative, mainly read his document account, but sounded convincing enough to worry Democrat fans and encourage the other side. He was adamant that the EC’s legal processes for the case were proper and legitimate, and that evidence was solid that the Democrat Party secretly received Bt258 million in donations from TPI Polene and siphoned the money via advertising company Messiah Business and Creation.

Kitinan sought to describe unscrupulous financial activities masqueraded as a state-subsidised effort to produce election campaign boards. Records showed the Democrats started the project prematurely, and state funds sought to pay for the campaign boards were not used according to stated purposes, he said. That, in addition to some false reports, was a violation of the law and the party should be dissolved.

Chuan painted a conspiratorial picture, decrying attempts to turn some honest or trivial missteps into a crime punishable by party dissolution. He told the court the case was not supposed to be filed to the court but that occurred because of malicious planning, plus pressure and intimidation.

He said the EC filed the case with the court after death threats by anti-government red shirts. Meanwhile, the Department of Special Investigation started the case under political influence during Samak Sundaravej government, Chuan insisted.

“It took years for the conspiracy attempts under Thaksin’s regime to reshuffle personnel and interfere with independent organisations,” he said, spelling out what he called an “evil legacy”.

He said the EC legal team also selectively presented biased information and resolved to dissolve Democrat Party. “When people threaten to burn your homes or take your lives, fear is understandable,” Chuan said, adding that now such intimidation and pressure had shifted to the Constitution Court.

Pheu Thai Party intentionally violated the law so that Constitution Court judges sued them and therefore had to withdraw from the case, Chuan charged.

“If the case is prolonged, we don’t know how many of the judges will be out of the case,” he said.

Three out of the nine Constitution Court judges including Wasant Soipisut, Chalermpol Ek-uru and Charoon Inthajarn withdrew from ruling on the case, leaving only six judges. The court has also weathered a political storm caused by the posting of video clips on YouTube, which attacked some judges’ character and credibility.

The former Democrat leader ended his statement by expressing sympathy for the Constitution Court, which he called the country’s “last resort” for justice and integrity. “This isn’t meant to please the court, but let me express my sympathy for one of last remaining institutions that people can rely on,” he said

Charter Court drops case against Democrat Party

Posted by arnon_k On November - 29 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

isnhotnews.comThe Constitution Court on Monday dismissed the Election Commission’s dissolution case against the Democrat Party, rulling that the petitioner had not followed proper lawful procedures.

Constitution Court judges voted 4:2 to drop the case.

“The filing by the Election Commission is unconstitutional because the process was not done properly,” according to the verdict, read out by judge Udomsak Nitimontree at the court in Bangkok.

The petition was unlawful because it took more than 15 days to file the complaint to the court.

The case centred on an allegation that the Democrat Party misused a 29 million baht electoral grant from the Election Commission during campaigning for the April 2, 2005, general election.

The Democrat Party reported to the Election Commmission that the money was paid to advertising agency Messiah Business and Creation Co to produce campaign advertising. Allegations later arose that the party did not spend the moeny for that purpose but instead transferred it to senior figures in the party.

If it had been found guilty, the party would have been disbanded and senior party executives, including Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, could have been banned from politics for five years.This would have collapsed the coalition government.

Democrat Party chief adviser Chuan Leekpai spent about 1 hour and 15 minutes delivering an oral closing statement in final rebuttal of the charge. The party earlier submitted a written closing statement.

Mr Chuan, who leads the legal team fighting the cases against the party, said there had been activities aimed at besmirching the Democrat Party and intervening in the Constitutional Court’s proceedings.

“There have been attempts to dissolve the Democrat Party and there have been irregularities since the beginning of this case,” he said in his address to the court in the morning.

“There was a group of people rallying in front of the Office of the Election Commission who set fire to caskets and made threats to the election commissioners if the Democrat Party were not disbanded.

“This group of people also warned EC chairman Apichart Sukkhaganond that he might not be able to walk on the streets safely,” Mr Chuan said.

Lead prosecutor Kittinan Thatpramuk, delivered his final argument, said the EC’s complaint was made “with legitimacy and care, with no bias against the party and not under any threat”.

“It believes that the party misused the grant and failed to be open about the facts,” he told the court.

Only six of nine judges remained on the panel to deliver the verdict. Judge Jaroon Intajarn, Judge Wasant Soipisut and Judge Chalermpol Ake-uru had earlier withdrawn.

Judges Jaroon and Chalermpol stepped aside after filing lawsuits against Pasit Sakdanarong, the former private secretary to the court president, Puea Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit and Matichonpaper for defamation over controversial video clips involving the court. news

Judge Wasant withdrew earliler after he was accused of meeting Tosapol Pengsom, a member of the Democrat legal team, and discussing the case against the Democrat Party.

Court drops dissolution case

Posted by arnon_k On November - 29 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

The Constitution Court on Monday dismissed the dissolution case brought against the Democrat Party by the Election Commission, ruling that the petitioner had not followed proper legal procedure.

Constitution Court judges voted 4:2 to drop the case.

“The filing by the Electoral Commission is unconstitutional because the process was not done properly,” judge Udomsak Nitimontree said in reading out the ruling at the court in Bangkok.

The filing of the petition was unlawful because it took more than 15 days to file the complaint to the court, the verdict said.

The decision saves the party from dissolution.

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