Thu, Mar 20, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Thai justice minister questions case

Reuters, BANGKOK

Thailand’s justice minister yesterday questioned the validity of a court case that could lead to the scrapping of a Feb. 2 election the ruling party looked set to win, one of many pending cases that could bring down the beleaguered government.

The election was disrupted by anti-government protesters and any decision by the Thai Constitutional Court to scrap it would add to the political chaos after four-and-a-half months of street rallies aimed at ousting Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Government supporters accuse the courts of bias and say many judges are aligned with the conservative establishment, prompting several to deny they are politicized.

Thai Minister of Justice Pongthep Thepkanjana said he failed to see how the election could be unconstitutional.

“The petition is not clear on how the election violates the constitution... This [case] might not even fall under the jurisdiction of the court,” he told reporters at the court.

RULING TOMORROW

The court is expected to hand down its ruling tomorrow.

The petition was brought by Kittipong Kamolthamwong, a law professor at Bangkok’s Thammasat University, and forwarded by the state ombudsman’s office. The Constitutional Court rejected a similar petition from the Democrat Party last month.

Yingluck heads a caretaker administration with limited powers and scrapping the vote would further delay the formation of a new government.

In a strongly worded statement on Tuesday, her Pheu Thai Party said such a verdict would have disastrous implications.

“If the Constitutional Court rules the election void, this would be a dangerous precedent for Thailand ... because if a party knows it is going to lose, it will move to block elections,” it said.

Voting still has to be completed in the 18 percent of constituencies where it was disrupted before parliament can open. Some reruns were held this month and the Election Commission has said others would be held on April 5 and 27.

The protesters, mainly from Bangkok and the south, have been trying since November last year to oust Yingluck and rid the country of the influence of her brother, populist former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled by the army in 2006.

RED SHIRTS

Heightening the risk of further strife, the pro-Thaksin Red Shirt movement got a new, more militant leader at the weekend and he promised to lead supporters into the streets to save Yingluck if the courts ousted her.

Gunmen yesterday attacked the Bangkok home of the new leader, Jatuporn Prompan, and that of a fellow Red Shirt leader, Nisit Sintuprai. No one was hurt in the attacks, said Thanawut Wichaidit, a spokesman for the movement.

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