Thai court dismisses case against PM's party

Thailand's Constitutional Court dismissed a second charge of illegal funding against the ruling Democrat Party.

Thai court dismisses case against PM's party

Thailand's Constitutional Court dismissed a second charge of illegal funding against the ruling Democrat Party, removing the threat that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva might have to step down.

Thailand's oldest party was let off the hook because the Election Commission (EC) president did not follow correct procedures in filing the case, stemming from allegations the party received an illegal donation ahead of a 2005 election.

It was the second time in less than a month that the Democrats had escaped funding charges due to technicalities related to the way the EC had filed cases.

A guilty verdict in either case could have led to the party's dissolution and a political ban on Abhisit and several ministers.

The pre-trial acquittal is likely to draw more criticism from opponents of the government, in particular the "red shirt" protest movement, which accuses the judiciary of bias in favour of Thailand's mostly pro-Democrat establishment elite.

The court said the EC chief had not personally made the final call, as required by law, on whether the commission thought the party was guilty of unlawfully obtaining a 258 million baht ($8.6 million) donation from a Thai cement maker, TPI Polene Pcl.

"The Election Commission did not have the authority to agree or disagree," a judge said in reading the decision.

The stock market climbed slightly after the ruling, which analysts said removed one element of risk to government stability in Thailand.

Protracted street protests by opposition supporters resulted in dozens of deaths in April and May.

However, anger over this latest court decision may not translate into further trouble, in the near term at least.

The red shirts plan to gather briefly on Friday evening under a new leader who has pledged to unite the fractious movement for a protracted but peaceful struggle.

"This (decision) is not really unexpected for us. It's good, actually, because more and more people can finally see our point about double standards in the justice system," Thida Thavornseth, the new acting leader of the red shirts, told Reuters.

The court decision was the latest twist in a five-year political crisis studded with street protests, party dissolutions and military intervention.

The Democrats came to power after a controversial parliamentary vote in 2008 that followed a court order to dissolve the then ruling party allied with former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

The twice-elected former telecoms billionaire and figurehead of the red shirts had been toppled by the military in 2006.


Reuters

Last Mod: 09 Aralık 2010, 12:14
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