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Thai PM in court as party faces ban threat

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2010 at 6:24 am

BANGKOK, Oct 18, 2010 (AFP) – Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva arrived at court amid tight security Monday as his ruling party fights to avoid a political ban that could bring fresh upheaval to the deeply divided kingdom.


Abhisit will be a witness for the defence at the Constitutional Court in what could be the final hearing in the case, which centres on accusations of misuse of a 29-million-baht (900,000 dollar) state grant in 2005.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (C) arrives at the Constitutional Court in Bangkok on October 18, 2010. AFP

The Democrat Party — Thailand’s oldest party — could be dissolved if found guilty, while the premier, who was its deputy leader at the time, could be handed a five-year ban from politics, alongside other executives.


Abhisit looked relaxed as he arrived but made no comment to the throngs of reporters gathered outside the court, where there was a heavy police presence.


Thailand’s Election Commission (EC) in April called for the ruling party to be abolished over the accusations, as well as a separate case alleging an undeclared political donation.


The call coincided with the country’s worst political violence in decades, which ultimately left 91 people dead and almost 1,900 wounded in a series of street clashes between opposition protesters and armed troops.


The Democrats are accused of paying 23 million baht to advertising firms, despite only having permission to spend 19 million on billboard marketing.


Abhisit has rejected accusations that a member of his party had attempted to influence the judiciary over the case.


The opposition’s allegations that a Democrat lawmaker met an aide of a Constitutional Court judge ahead of the hearing — and was captured on video — were splashed on the front pages of local media Monday.


Judicial rulings have played a pivotal role in shaping Thailand’s political landscape in the past.


The Democrats came to power two years ago after court decisions ousted allies of fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was himself unseated in a 2006 military coup.


Two premiers were forced from office by the judiciary in 2008 — one of whom, Samak Sundaravej, was removed for taking payments for hosting TV cooking shows.


Uncertainty over the government comes at a difficult stage for the country, which remains bitterly torn in the wake of deadly opposition protests by the opposition “Red Shirt” movement.


The Reds accuse Abhisit’s government of being undemocratic because it came to power with army backing in a parliamentary vote after the controversial court rulings, and their protests have called for immediate elections.


Some observers questioned whether Abhisit’s backers in the military and Bangkok-based elite would allow the Democrats to be toppled.


Former Thai diplomat Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an author and fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said he did not believe the party would be disbanded.


However, he said one potential motive for dissolution would be as a gesture to the Reds to rebuff allegations of double standards in the legal system.


Pavin said “even then, they will have a plan B”, with rumours that a new party would swiftly rise from the ashes of the old.

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Source: SGGP

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