Thai junta’s election commission under fire over poll gaffes

The Election Commission (EC) has come under fierce criticism for the catalogue of errors that have plagued its vote counts and results announcements for the March 24 election.

The Future Forward Party (FFP) is pressing for a poll rerun in Nakhon Pathom’s Constituency 1 to set the record straight after claiming Sunday’s ballot recount was riddled with inaccuracies.

The constituency was a tight race between Democrat candidate Sinthop Kaeophichit and FFP candidate Savika Limpasuwanna who, based on the March 24 vote, lost to her Democrat opponent by a total of 147 votes.

Ms Savika then sought a recount after inspecting the Election Commission (EC) figures, which was granted across the constituency’s 245 polling stations and held at Silapakorn University on Sunday.

While the official result of the recount has not been announced, the Democrat Party declared itself the winner by four ballots on Sunday.

However, shortly after, EC member Chatchai Chanpraisri said in a media interview that the FFP candidate had won by 62 votes.

Confusion remained until on Monday when EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma announced that the Democrat candidate had captured 35,711 votes, four more than Ms Savika.

Citing inaccuracies and a 20-second blackout while the ballots were being recounted, the FFP said there is evidence that the count was inaccurate and the EC should order an election rerun.

“With the results changing like that, it’s not possible to say which count is correct,” said an FFP statement.

Ms Savika said on her Facebook page that she wants clarification.

“The problem is the lingering doubt. Winning or losing is not as important as clarity, transparency and fairness,” she said.

Continue reading Bangkok Post: EC under fire over poll gaffes

Thailand election commission moves to disqualify anti-junta politician

Thailand’s Election Commission on Tuesday accused a prominent anti-junta politician of breaching the election law, moving to disqualify him from parliament almost a month after the disputed March 24 election.

Rising political star Thanathorn Jungroongruangkit, 40, is accused of holding shares in a media company after registering his candidacy, which would violate the election law.

The outcome of the first national election since a 2014 military coup is still unclear. Final results due on May 9 will indicate whether a pro-army party has enough seats to allow junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha to remain in power.

Thanathorn’s progressive, youth-oriented Future Forward Party came third in the election in a surprisingly strong showing.

His party has joined an opposition “democratic front” with a party loyal to Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted as prime minister by the military, to try to block Prayuth, who led a 2014 coup against a pro-Thaksin government.

The Pheu Thai Party loyal to Thaksin won the most seats in parliament but not a majority. The pro-army Palang Pracharat party came second.

Thanathorn, the heir to an auto parts fortune, has brought a new element to Thai politics that have for 15 years been divided between the royalist-military establishment and the populist “red shirts” linked to Thaksin.

“The evidence has shown that Thanathorn is the owner or a shareholder of V-Luck Media company,” Sawang Boonmee, deputy secretary-general of the Election Commission, told reporters.

“This disqualifies him from having the right to become a candidate for member of parliament based on the constitution and the election law.”

Thanathorn has previously denied breaching electoral law, saying he sold his shares in the media company on Jan. 8, prior to registering as a candidate.

He has seven days to submit evidence to the Election Commission to refute the allegation.

If found guilty, Thanathorn would be banned from running for election for one year. He could also face criminal charges for contesting the election knowing he was ineligible, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a ban from politics for 20 years.

Thanathorn, who was traveling back to Thailand from the Netherlands, posted on Facebook: “I was just told from Thailand to quickly return to prepare for an unexpected situation. See you in Thailand.”

Thanathorn faces two other criminal charges, one of sedition for allegedly aiding anti-junta protesters in 2015, and another for cybercrime for a speech he made on Facebook criticizing the junta last year.

In a separate legal proceeding, the Thai Supreme Court on Tuesday sentenced former premier Thaksin in absentia to three years in prison for conflict of interest by ordering a state-owned bank to lend money to Myanmar so it could buy products from Thaksin’s own business while he was in office.

Thaksin, who was overthrown by the military in 2006 and lives in self-imposed exile, has already been sentenced to two years in prison in a separate 2008 corruption conviction. He said the corruption cases were politically motivated.

Source: Reuters

Junta persecution continues: Ex-PM Thaksin given 3-year imprisonment for Exim Bank’s loan to Myanmar

The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Office has sentenced fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to three years in prison without suspension after finding him guilty of malfeasance in office for approving a 4-billion-baht low interest loan from the Thai Exim Bank to Myanmar for the purchase of telecom equipment and services from his family-owned company, Shin Satellite.

The court also issued a warrant for the arrest of Thaksin who has been in self-exile since 2008.

After his overthrow in a military coup in 2006, a special Assets Scrutiny Committee was set up by the junta-appointed government to investigate Thaksin’s massive wealth and his alleged conflicts of interest which may have enabled him to amass considerable wealth. The Exim Bank’s loan to Myanmar is just one of about a dozen cases investigated by the panel and, subsequently, by the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

Three other cases are still pending, including the change of concession fees for his family’s telecom business, which caused an estimated 66 billion baht revenue loss for the state; the granting of 9.9 billion in loans to a real estate group, Krisdamahanakorn, by the state-owned Krung Thai Bank; and the planned issuance of three and two-digit lotteries.

The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Offices accepted the case in July 2008, but Thaksin did not show up for the first hearing and was reported to have fled overseas. A warrant was issued for his arrest.

Source Thai PBS

Thailand’s Dodgy Election Commission Accuses Thanathorn of Breaching Elections Law

The Election Commission on Tuesday resolved to accuse Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruamgkit of breaching the election law by holding media company shares while competing in the general elections.

Thanathorn will be asked to defend himself on the alleged breach of the law within seven days. Article 98 of the MP Elections Law bans MP candidates from holding shares in a media company after registering in the election.

Thanathorn earlier claimed he had already sold his shares in a media company called V-Luck Media on January 8, as required by the law.

On Monday, the chair of the commission’s subcommittee tasked with reviewing the issue, Pol. Lt. Gen. Yutthana Thaipakdee, resigned, claiming the subcommittee is coming under pressure to rule in a certain direction.

Earlier on Tuesday, Future Forward Party secretary general Piyabutr Saengkanonkkul held a press conference insisting that the Election Commission has no authority to disqualify Thanathorn by citing laws are only applicable to constituency-based MPs and not a party-list MP like Thanathorn.

Piyabutr denied that his party leader failed to transfer shares in the media company in time as required by the election law.

Thanathorn is also currently facing a sedition charge. He is believed to be on his way back to Thailand from Europe as of publication time.

Thanathorn formerly served on the board of Matichon Group, the parent company of Khaosod English.

Source Khaosod English: Election Commission Accuses Thanathorn of Breaching Elections Law

Thai election panel asks court to validate formula to decide election result

Thailand’s election panel asked a court on Thursday to decide if a contested formula used to calculate the 150 “party seats” for the House of Representative was valid and lawful, almost three weeks after a poll whose results it plans to announce on May 9.

The March 24 vote was conducted under a complicated electoral system that critics say was devised by the military government to weaken democracy, but which the ruling junta says will ensure stability.

The move raises the prospect of further delay after a lack of clarity over the election outcome fueled concerns over alleged manipulation by the military government, while “democratic front” anti-junta parties say they have come under more scrutiny by the authorities since the vote.

Continue reading Reuters

Pro-democracy party Pheu Thai insists it has legitimate right to form Thai government

With the highest number of MPs in parliament under its command, the Pheu Thai Party has the legitimate to right to form a government before the party in second place, Pheu Thai secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai said on Sunday.

Speaking after the party’s first general assembly in five years, Mr Phumtham said that apart from certifying the past expenditure and political activities of the party, the meeting discussed the political situation after the March 24 election — and reached the conclusion that Pheu Thai, which looked certain to command the highest number of MPs in the House of Representatives, should be given the first chance to form a government.

Pro-military parties have tried to go against this tradition, he said, adding: “Never before has a party which came second in terms of House seats been given the first right to form a government, he added.

According to Mr Phumtham, the claim by a pro-military party that by coming first in the popular vote, it had a greater right than Pheu Thai to try to form a government was delusional.

The Pheu Thai secretary-general said the assembly resolved that party members and various party committees, including the economic affairs committee, should prepare to address a host of issues once it was clear the party was to try to form a government.

But if the party was not successful in doing so, those committees would continue in their work, he said. MPs were to go to their constituencies to compile people’s opinions concerning constitutional amendments and set up a party branch in every constituency to cope with a possible change in the political situation.

Asked to comment on reports that Pheu Thai was replacing its party leader and preparing to lead the opposition in parliament, Mr Phumtham said the party still insists it has the legitimate right to form a government.  However, since the election results are not yet clear and the 250 senators are not yet in place, Pheu Thai is prepared for any situation — but is not contemplating a change in party leader.

Mr Phumtham said he was confident an agreement ratified by the leaders of seven political parties, with Pheu Thai as the core, to prevent the junta from retaining power was still solid. He did not name the parties.

“Any attempt to break this coalition by whatever method — including buying of the so-called ‘cobras’ — would be disgraceful. It would have an effect on political decision-making in the future and would set a sad example for democracy,” he added.

On a proposal for the formation of a national unity government, Mr Phumtham said he believes democratic procedures will find a solution, adding that the proposal for such a form of government is unjustified for the time-being.

Source Bangkok Post: Pheu Thai insists it has legitimate right to form govt

Pro-democracy Mingkwan stands by Pheu Thai ally

New Economics Party leader Mingkwan Sangsuwan yesterday insisted the party would not jump ship and join the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) in a coalition government, as the party dismissed a claim by several party members it was being dominated by outsiders.

During a press conference, Mr Mingkwan said he bore no personal grudges against the PPRP, but they had different political ideologies and he had already pledged support for Pheu Thai.

He also insisted there were no renegades in his party looking to break ranks and vote for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha — the PPRP’s prime ministerial candidate — to return as premier.

“Some say there are ngu hao [cobras] in the party and that the party is in talks with the PPRP. I can declare this is all untrue. We’re with the Pheu Thai Party,” he said.

Deputy party leader, Supadit Arkhatruek, yesterday also dismissed as untrue an allegation that the party was dominated by outsiders who prevent it from freely conducting its activities.

Three constituency MP candidates called on the Election Commission (EC) on Thursday to dissolve their own party for allowing non-party members to dictate political activities. They urged the EC to investigate the matter and suspend the announcement of the party’s vote results.

According to Mr Supadit, the individuals alluded to in the petition are party members, not outsiders as alleged. He said those seeking the party’s dissolution were violating party regulations and action was being considered.

Deputy Prime Minister, Wissanu Krea-ngam, said yesterday it is not easy to dissolve a political party and the process is usually a lengthy one.

In the complaint surrounding the New Economics Party, he said there must be solid evidence to prove three elements — an outsider exists, interference by the outsider, and interference in the party’s activities.

“Activities means things that executives or party members have to decide. Outsiders can’t intervene,” he added.

Buddhipongse Punnakanta, a PPRP member, yesterday refused to say whether the New Economics Party would join its coalition and insisted the bid to seek its dissolution had nothing to do with the PPRP.

He said the PPRP’s participation in the election should put an end to allegations the regime was trying to cling to power and the millions of votes won by the PPRP were an endorsement of Gen Prayut as the party’s prime ministerial candidate.

Source Bangkok Post: Mingkwan stands by Pheu Thai ally