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05BANGKOK3521 NATIONAL COUNTER CORRUPTION COMMISSIONERS RESIGN AFTER CONVICTIONS FOR UNAUTHORIZED PAY RAISES

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“33456”,”5/31/2005 4:54″,”05BANGKOK3521″,”Embassy Bangkok”,

 

“UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY”,””,

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 003521

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV. HQ USPACOM FOR FPA HUSO

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV, TH, NCCC – National Counter Corruption Commission

SUBJECT: THAILAND: NATIONAL COUNTER CORRUPTION

COMMISSIONERS RESIGN AFTER CONVICTIONS FOR UNAUTHORIZED PAY

RAISES

 

1. (SBU) Summary: On May 30, eight commissioners of the

National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) resigned under

a cloud. A ninth commissioner had resigned earlier, shortly

after the Supreme Court of Justice\’s Criminal Division for

Persons Holding Political Positions ruled (6 to 3) on May 26

that the NCCC had wrongfully and dishonestly abused their

office by intentionally skirting the law and awarding

themselves a pay raise. The Court sentenced all nine NCCC

commissioners to 2-years imprisonment but suspended the jail

terms in recognition of previous long-standing service to the

country. Incredibly, most of the commissioners apparently

thought they could stay in office, but parliamentary and

public outcry — and pressure from Prime Minister Thaksin —

forced them out. This case focuses attention on and raises

questions about other constitutionally-mandated \”watchdog\”

bodies which have also given themselves raises. End Summary.

 

PARLIAMENTARIANS ISSUE PETITION AGAINST NCCC

 

2. (U) On May 26, the 9-member Supreme Court of Justice\’s

Criminal Division for Persons Holding Political Positions

ruled by a vote of 6 to 3 that all 9 members of the National

Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) had wrongfully,

dishonestly and intentionally awarded itself pay raises. The

case had been simmering since September 2004 when Senator Dr.

Chirmsak Pinthong discovered during a budgetary debate that

NCCC had issued a \”regulation\” in July 2004 giving all

commissioners a pay raise, including an additional monthly

allowance of Baht 45,500 for the Chairman and Baht 42,500 for

the others. These new allowances raised the total monthly

salary and allowances to Baht 154,000 for the Chairman and

Baht 147,000 for the other commissioners, levels above those

received by the Prime Minister (Baht 115,920) and all other

ministers, senators and congresspersons. As a consequence of

this discovery, 203 Parliamentarians (108 senators and 95

members of Parliament, including one MP from the Thai Rak

Thai Party) led by Senator Pratin Santiprabhob, Chairman of

Senate Extraordinary Committee Investigating Corruption, sent

a petition through the President of the Senate on October 6,

2004 to the appropriate court to initiate proceedings against

the NCCC.

 

CONVICTION AND SUSPENSION OF SENTENCE

 

3. (U) The Supreme Court reviewed the case and focused

principally on the charges as contained in the petition, i.e.

malfeasance charges and alleged abuse by the NCCC of its

authority in awarding itself the pay raises. After

investigations, and testimony by the commissioners, the

Court found that the NCCC had given itself new benefits even

though it understood it had no legal authority to do so. The

Court noted that Article 253 of the Constitution provides

that \”salaries, emoluments and other benefits of judges shall

be provided by law,\” not by the method of \”regulation\” used.

Article 253 specifically stipulates that its provisions apply

to NCCC commissioners. The Court therefore convicted all

NCCC members and sentenced them to 2-years imprisonment. The

Court suspended the jail sentences for two years in

recognition of the commissioners\’ pervious positive records.

 

NCCC COMMISSIONERS LINGER DESPITE VERDICT

 

4. (U) This landmark verdict initially threw the NCCC into

a state of confusion because it did not specifically remove

all nine-members of NCCC from office. One commissioner

resigned on May 27, but the others clung to office, with

their supporters citing a Constitutional Court precedent from

1999 involving Newin Chidchorb, who then (as he is now) was

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives. In 1999,

the Provincial Court of Buri Ram had convicted Newin on a

defamation charge, given him a sentence of six months\’

imprisonment, but suspended it for one year. The

Constitutional Court had then judged the suspended term to be

merely nominal, which allowed Newin to remain in office.

Some NCCC Commissioners and their supporters initially argued

that the Newin judgment was applicable in their case and that

they could continue in office, despite conviction, in

accordance with the Articles 260 and 298 of the Constitution.

The problem of the NCCC commissioners was further compounded

by Article 300 (para 3) of the Constitution which specified

that once a case is referred to the Supreme Court of

Justice\’s Criminal Division for Persons Holding Political

Positions for trial and adjudication (which Newin\’s had not

been), the accused shall not perform their duties until this

Supreme Court dismissed the case. In the NCCC matter, the

Supreme Court had handed down a verdict. Armed only with

these thin technical arguments, NCCC members seemed ready to

try to remain in office after conviction and when the law

prohibited them from performing their duties.

 

ALL RESIGN AFTER PUBLIC OPINION TURNS

 

5. (SBU) The convicted NCCC commissioners weathered a few

day of fierce public debate — probably the most intense

debate on contradictions in the 1997 Constitution since it

was adopted — before stepping down on May 30. Although the

opposition Democrats (DP) led the calls for resignation, PM

Thaksin weighed in heavily for resignation as well despite

the fact that all the commissioners were selected during his

first administration and were generally regarded as choices

he had favored. The NCCC resignations open the way for

selection of new commissioners, but the process is likely to

be difficult. Article 297 of the Constitution requires

selection of new nominees to be made by representatives of

five political parties with members in the Parliament. After

the overwhelming TRT victory in last February\’s elections,

only four political parties have members in Parliament,

including Mahachon which only elected two MPs. To proceed

with selection of new commissioners, the Constitution will

have to be amended beforehand.

 

6. (SBU) Comment: This involvement of the NCCC in

controversy is a blow to the prestige and credibility of

other constitutionally-mandated independent \”watchdog\”

bodies. It is open knowledge that the Election Commission of

Thailand, the Constitutional Court and the Office of the

Ombudsman have all awarded themselves income increases using

similar methods to those of the NCCC. All seem vulnerable to

formal charges. Though for some observers, the dispute over

the raises was complex and fell into a gray area in which the

constitutional bodies might have been understood to be

empowered to direct their budgets, the court decision and the

public outcry were very black and white and condemning. End

Comment.

ARVIZU

 

 

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Written by thaicables

July 7, 2011 at 5:28 am

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