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Mayor of Phuket's party town suspended

Mayor of Phuket's party town suspended

PATONG: Mayor Pian Keesin was suspended from office on Wednesday (September 25) by the Administrative Court over allegations of vote fraud.

By The Phuket News

Friday 27 September 2013, 10:07AM

Waiting for the Administration Court's decision: Mayor Pian Keesin.

Waiting for the Administration Court's decision: Mayor Pian Keesin.

His case is now in the Appeal Court (the appeal is automatic) which will decide whether to back the Administration Court's decision.

If it disagrees with the lower court, Mr Pian will be reinstated as mayor. If it backs the lower court's decision, ir then has two options: to call an election and allow Mr Pian to run, or to call and election and bar him from running.

Deputy Mayor Chairat Sukkbal told The Phuket News today (September 27) that the mayor’s suspension would have no immediate effect on the running of the municipality; all three deputy mayors know hat they need to do and will continue doing it.

No one has yet been appointed acting mayor. Normally this would be the most senior of the deputies, in Patong’s case, Deputy Mayor Prasan Yodtor. But Mr Chairat said, the Municipality was still waiting for official word on this from the Court.

Mr Chairat said the mayor’s troubles are related to the large number of people named on the house register (tabien baan) for his hotel, the Patong Bay Resort.

“We have to wait for the court’s decision, which will be sent to the District Secretary of Kathu. Then we will know what will happen.”

Mayor Pian’s suspension is the latest in a series of such incidents in the money-talks rough-and-tumble of Patong politics.

Pian Keesin first got booted out of office in 2001 when the council voted to reject his proposed budget – in effect a vote of no confidence.

In the election campaign that ensued, his rival Surasak Maneesri claimed that Mr Pian was importing voters and registering them at his house so they could vote in the upcoming election. Mr Pian fired the same accusation back at Mr Surasak.

There was a bizarre incident when an apparent assassination attack on Mr Surasak failed. The candidate was sitting in his car at the traffic lights outside Tesco-Lotus bypass. Seeing he had a long wait, h decided to recline his seat and take a short rest.

Two men on a motorbike drew up alongside and fired four shots through the driver’s side window. The bullets missed Mr Surasak, and burrowed into the dash. The gunmen roared away.

Laguna Golf Phuket

Mr Pian branded it as staged in order to get sympathy votes. Mr Surasak threatened to sue various newspapers for defamation and dared Mr Pian to sit in a car while he, Surasak, fired a gun through the window. Mr Pian declined to take up his offer.

Just before the election Mr Surasak was declared ineligible and was then red-carded by the Administration Court which found him guilty of buying the votes of the councillors who had rejected Mr Pian’s budget. He was barred from holding political office for five years.

He was barred from politics for five years so his brother Chalermsak stepped up as mayoral candidate – and won.

But he in turn was thrown out of office for electoral cheating.

A new poll in February 2004 – with Mr Surasak astonishingly acting as “consultant” to Mr Pian – saw the election of Songserm Kepsap, who beat Mr Pian by 322 votes.

That poll, too, was declared void.

A new vote four months later finally saw Mr Pian seated on the mayoral throne once again, and this time the election commissioners deemed the election clean enough to stand.

Mr Pian has been in power ever since.

A month ago Mayor Pian answered questions about the possibility that he might be ordered to step down because of alleged irregularities in elections last year.

He said he would not fight any court order. “I don’t mind about that; we have to follow whatever the regulations say. If the Central Election Commission takes the case to the court and the court makes a judgement that I am out and there will be new elections, then I won’t fight the ruling. I will contest those elections.”

But Mayor Pian said he will not stay on as Mayor forever. Noting that he is now 70 years old, he said, “If the people elect me, then I’ll have to do it. But I think I will stay for only one more term.”

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