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Pheu Thai faces legal challenge

Pheu Thai faces legal challenge

THAILAND: Defeated Democrats launched a legal bid Friday to ban the victorious party of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, threatening fresh political turmoil.

Friday 15 July 2011, 06:49AM

The Democrat Party asked the Election Commission (EC) to recommend the abolition of Pheu Thai, the winner of Sunday July 3 election, on the grounds that disqualified politicians were involved in its campaign.

“We asked EC to recommend to the Constitutional Court to dissolve Pheu Thai,” Wiratana Kalayasiri, head of the Democrats’ legal team said.

“The accusation is that Pheu Thai allowed people subject to five-year political bans to become involved in policy planning, phone-ins and video addresses and also the selection of candidates,” he said.

A Democrat member has also lodged a complaint against premier-in-waiting Yingluck Shinawatra – Thaksin’s youngest sister – accusing her of giving away free noodles during campaigning in an attempt to buy votes.

The legal process is expected to take some time but is not expected to prevent Yingluck from becoming Thailand’s first female prime minister.

Any attempt to remove her party from power would be sure to anger Thaksin’s “Red Shirt” supporters, who were behind mass protests in Bangkok last year that turned deadly.

“This is an invitation to the most hardline, radical and violent elements in the Red Shirts to do their stuff. To subvert this result would be an invitation to mayhem,” said Andrew Walker, a senior fellow at Australian National University.

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The judiciary has a record of intervening in politics. Two Thaksin parties have been dissolved by the courts in the past and their top executives, including the controversial former leader, were banned from politics.

Yingluck, however, and most other Pheu Thai lawmakers are not executives, so should avoid a ban themselves and could in theory move to another party.

But Walker said the dissolution case might be just one of several legal steps against her party, including the possible disqualification of Pheu Thai candidates that could erode their majority.

Thaksin’s party lashed out at the Democrats’ move and suggested it would retaliate with legal action of its own.

“The Democrats don’t respect the people’s decision. More than 16 million voted for Pheu Thai,” deputy party leader Plodprasob Suraswadi said. – AFP

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