By The Nation
STEPS ARE being taken for the dissolution of the political party that nominated Princess Ubolratana as its PM candidate for the March 24 general election.
The Association for the Protection of the Thai Constitution, a political pressure group, unveiled its plan yesterday to ask the Election Commission (EC) to take steps that could lead to a Constitutional Court verdict dissolving the Thai Raksa Chart Party.
The group’s secretary-general Srisuwan Janya said a petition would be filed with the EC today.
On Friday morning, Thai Raksa Chart gave the EC Princess Ubolratana’s name as its sole PM candidate. However, in the evening, His Majesty the King issued a nationally broadcast statement that said it was against tradition and was unconstitutional for a member of the Royal Family to be involved in politics. The Princess is His Majesty’s older sister.
In response to the statement, Thai Raksa Chart said it accepted the royal command “with loyalty to His Majesty and all members of the Royal Family”, while the Princess thanked people for their love and support in a message on Instagram.
Meanwhile, members of the ruling junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), are viewing this “misstep” as an opportunity to get Thai Raksa Chart dissolved.
The party is linked to former fugitive prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is a staunch critic of the NCPO and also viewed as its arch-enemy.
“This is the best time to get the party dissolved. This is because they have shot themselves in the foot. It’s a serious mistake. If we can link Thai Raksa Chart and Pheu Thai Party, we will be able to get them both dissolved. If that is the case, the dissolution must be done before the election,” an NCPO supporter said.
The source added that the EC could take any political party to the Constitutional Court if it believes the party had violated any law that is punishable by dissolution.
“The EC should clarify this matter next week. If it decides to take this case to the Constitutional Court, then the verdict should come in time for the March 24 election,” the source added.
Meanwhile, Thai Raksa Chart leader Preechaphol Pongpanit was seen visiting a Buddhist temple in Ayutthaya province yesterday despite rumours that he and other key party figures had been detained after announcing the party’s controversial PM candidate.
Srisuwan, a political activist known for filing complaints against politicians, said yesterday that his group would push the EC to forward his case to the Constitutional Court.
“We will ask the EC to consider whether Thai Raksa Chart Party’s action violated relevant laws and EC regulations on election campaigning. We ask that the case be referred to the Constitutional Court for a decision on whether Thai Raksa Chart should be dissolved,” Srisuwan said.
He said the party’s nomination of the Princess had led to controversy and raised the question of whether this nomination is even constitutional. The activist noted that Thai Raksa Chart had not considered legal provisions that may have prevented it from nominating the Princess, who relinquished her royal titles in 1972 to marry an American.
However, Srisuwan also noted the King’s statement barring the Princess from getting involved in politics, as she is still a member of the Royal Family. The statement pointed out that it was against the spirit of the Constitution for a member of the Royal Family to get involved in politics. Also, it said, the monarchy is supposed to stay above politics.
Srisuwan pointed out that Thai Raksa Chart had nominated someone who is not qualified to become a PM candidate, which is against the electoral laws and EC regulations.
The EC prohibits political parties from relying on the monarchy for their election campaigns.
EC president Ittiporn Boonpracong responded to the controversy yesterday, by saying the matter “should be” on the agenda today.
As for Srisuwan’s petition, which will be filed with the EC today, Ittiporn said the agency would decide later whether the petition should be used for further action. Though declining to comment directly, the EC chief said the case would be considered carefully and fairly.
In a related development, Thai Raksa Chart Party issued a statement yesterday, thanking its supporters for offering encouragement for its controversial nomination. Thaksin, who has lived in self-exile since 2008, offered words of encouragement yesterday, which observers say were meant for Thai Raksa Chart.
“Chin up and keep moving forward! We learn from past experiences but live for today and the future. Cheer up! Life must go on!” the former leader said on Twitter.
Separately, Thai Raksa Chart’s core member and legal expert Ruangkrai Leekitwattana said yesterday that he will file a petition with the EC today asking for the disqualification of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as the sole PM candidate of the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party.
His argument is that Phalang Pracharat’s process of nominating General Prayut was not in compliance with the party’s regulations. The politician also said the Constitution prohibits state officials from contesting an election, adding that as the NCPO chief, Prayut should be regarded as a government official.
Independent scholar Sirote Klampaiboon yesterday called on the EC not to seek disbandment of Thai Raksa Chart due to pressure from rival political factions. He said such a decision could cause the EC to be viewed as a political tool to get rid of the junta’s opponents.
“It is not legitimate to cite Thai Raksa Chart’s prime minister candidate and its campaign behaviour for the proposal to dissolve the party as it has not yet begun the campaign and the candidate’s qualification has not yet been proved invalid,” he said.