Thai opposition to challenge poll in court

February 05, 2014 - 8:48:02 am

An anti-government protester sits between tents at a protest site in downtown Bangkok yesterday.

BANGKOK:  Thailand’s opposition Democrat Party said it will challenge a disputed weekend ballot in court yesterday, while the Election Commission probed possible campaigning irregularities in a drawn-out political conflict that showed no sign of ending.

In a further blow for caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, China pulled out of a deal to buy 1.2 million tonnes of Thai rice amid a corruption probe, the commerce minister said, adding to the financing problems of a subsidy scheme that had helped win her huge rural support.

The Democrats, who boycotted the election, will file two complaints with the Constitutional Court, spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut said.

“The first regards the election directly. We will argue that the election violated the constitution, in particular article 68 which prohibits people from undermining the constitutional monarchy and trying to grab power through unconstitutional means,” he said.

“In a separate petition, we will file for the dissolution of (Yingluck’s) Puea Thai Party for announcing the state of emergency which meant the election could not be held under normal circumstances.”

Anti-government protesters have been on the streets since November, saying Yingluck must resign and make way for an appointed “people’s council.” 

The protesters draw their support from Bangkok’s middle-class and elite, as well as the south. The Shinawatra power base is among the mainly rural poor in the populous north and northeast.

Yingluck imposed a state of emergency last month to try to control the protests, allowing security agencies to impose curfews, declare areas off-limits and detain suspects without charge.  Such measures have not been enforced.

Sunday’s election was generally peaceful, with no repeat of the chaos seen the previous day when supporters and opponents of Yingluck clashed in north Bangkok. Whatever the result, it is unlikely to change the dysfunctional status quo after eight years of polarisation and turmoil.

The Election Commission said it was looking into complaints on alleged abuse of authority by the government during Sunday’s vote.

It is due to meet today to discuss problems including the failure to register candidates in 28 electoral districts after protesters blockaded candidate registration centres in December.

Thailand’s anti-graft agency has accelerated an investigation into Yingluck’s role as head of a rice price-support scheme that has cost taxpayers billions of dollars, leading to China cancelling the deal. 

“China lacks confidence to do business with us after the National Anti-Corruption Commission started investigations into the transparency of rice deals between Thailand and China,” Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan told reporters.            Reuters

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