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Legislator clarifies new law for cases against on political office holders

Jul 19. 2017
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By The Nation

The bill draft on criminal procedures against political office holders will not be applicable to finalised cases, but could apply to cases that have been put on hold and those that are already in progress, a legislator confirmed on Wednesday.

Pattarasak Wannasaeng, who presided the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) committee vetting the bill draft, explained that the bill would not apply to cases that had ended, especially those in which defendants had fled the country and were beyond the statue of limitations.

“Any law must not be interpreted in a way damaging defendants,” Pattarasak said.

Highly debated about this critical point of the bill is one finalised case concerning ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who has lived in self-exile since the 2006 coup. However, he still has some more cases which were put on hold, and lawmakers have interpreted that these may be subject to legal proceedings under this new bill.

The junta-appointed NLA approved the bill draft amid heavy skepticism that it would be used as another legal tool against Thaksin.

The bill draft enables trials in absentia against defendants. The secretary-general of the Office of the Judiciary Athikon Intuputi disagreed with this point during the NLA deliberating session.

But Pattarasak insisted that the court would have to adhere to the law once it is enacted.

He said that if the court or defendants viewed that the bill’s stipulation on prescription might go against the charter, they could propose the matter for the Constitutional Court’s consideration.

The general public could also make a petition to ask the Ombudsman to take the matter to the Constitutional Court, he added.

“The trials in absentia will be proceeded exceptionally,” the NLA member said “There must be attempts to proceed with the cases conventionally and with the defendants’ presence before such trials are carried out. Defendants will have abundant opportunities to fight their cases. I can say that this sort of trial is fair enough.”

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