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05BANGKOK6119 THAILAND’S ELECTION HOOLIGANS — ELECTION COMMISSION LOWERS THE BOOM

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“41312”,”9/26/2005 3:10″,”05BANGKOK6119″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

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

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

260310Z Sep 05

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 006119

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: NONE

TAGS: PGOV, TH, Elections – Thai

SUBJECT: THAILAND\’S ELECTION HOOLIGANS — ELECTION

COMMISSION LOWERS THE BOOM

 

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. The Election Commission of Thailand

(ECT) on September 20 issued red cards, and yellow

cards, to 4 elected Members of Parliament (MP,s) for

election irregularities stemming from last February,s

elections. One member of the Democrat Party received a red

card (meaning 1 year suspension from politics and vacation of

his/her seat), while 3 members of the Thai Rak Thai party

received yellow cards (for lesser offenses, calling for a

rerun of the vote). Two other MP,s from the Democrat Party

and Mahachon Party were also recommended for red cards by the

ECT, but the latter reconsidered after a second look by the

Official of the Judicial Council. At the same time,

investigations into 2 of the 5 members of the ECT may result

in their expulsions from the posts, invalidating the

penalties handed out by the ECT. By-elections for all 4 MP

seats will take place in late October. END SUMMARY.

 

INDEPENDENT ELECTION COMMISSION EXERCISES CONSIDERABLE POWER

TO NULLIFY POLLS

 

2. (SBU) The ECT draws its powers from the Constitution of

1997. The Election Commission consists of a Chairman and

four other commissioners appointed by the King, who receives

his recommendations after lengthy deliberations by the

Senate. The 5 members of the ECT are supposed to be

persons of apparent political impartiality and integrity.,

The purpose of the ECT is to investigate all accusations of

election irregularities at the federal level. The members

are appointed for a seven year term, and the existing ECT is

the second such team to be in place since their power was

established by the Constitution.

 

HOW THE PROCESS WORKS

 

3. (SBU) In theory, anyone can raise charges against a

candidate for breaking the campaigning rules. When an

accusation is made against a candidate, the ECT reviews the

allegations and determines the level of severity of the

violation(s) levied against them. There are two levels of

severity and thus two levels of punishment: Red Cards,

and Yellow Cards,, with the Red Cards being the more

serious of the two. The ECT cannot issue a Red Card or a

Yellow Card unless there is a unanimous decision by the

committee. Everyone who receives a Red Card or a Yellow Card

from the ECT must give up their seat in Parliament. To fill

these newly vacant seats, a special by-election will be held

approximately 45 days after the ECT issues the Red Cards and

Yellow Cards. Yellow Card recipients are allowed to run as a

candidate in the special election, but Red Card recipients

are barred from running for office for a period of one year

and are also subject to criminal charges. Whereas Yellow

Card penalties are final, a Red Card recipient can appeal

their case to the Supreme Court. There is no set procedure

for the conduct of the ECT,s investigations, and the actual

methods of investigation are considered somewhat of an

enigma. Despite this, the lack of set procedure has not

caused any controversy in Thai politics.

 

4. (SBU) If the ECT unanimously decides to issue a red

card or a yellow card, the results are forwarded to the

Office of the Judicial Council (OJC), which is also known as

the Council of State, for a second look. Cases that do not

have a unanimous decision are dismissed. The OJC is a

council of 12 members from various organizations within the

Ministry of Justice, whose members range from political

appointees to independent judges. The OJC reviews each case

and forwards their recommendation back to the ECT. The

recommendation will be to either agree or disagree with the

findings of the ECT, and only requires a majority of the 12

council members. The ECT is not bound to follow the

recommendation of the OJC, so if the latter disagrees with

the ECT,s initial findings, the ECT can still opt,

presumably after serious consideration, to issue the penalty.

 

SEVERAL DELAYS IN ECT\’S DELIBERATIONS THIS TIME AROUND

 

5. (SBU) The results from this election,s review were

noticeably overdue compared to the January 2001 election.

Whereas it only took the ECT 2 weeks to hand out penalties in

2001, the February 2005 election penalties have been delayed

4 times over a period of 7 months. Over the past week, there

have been several short delays, indicating that the ECT

members were close to a decision but couldn,t achieve

finality. The situation was similar to that of a hung jury:

everyone had to agree to find a candidate guilty or the ECT

cannot issue a penalty. Although the stated reason for the

delay was to allow one of the ECT members time to return from

his official trip observing the elections in Japan, it is

likely that the ECT was arguing over the fates of several

suspect MP\’s. Specifically, the OJC disagreed with the

ECT,s decision over two of the three MP,s recommended for

red cards, and the ECT is very sensitive to public perception

about their decisions. These include whispered rumors of

government influence over who will receive the cards, and who

should not. One member of the Democrat party, Opposition

Chief Whip Sathit Wongnongtoey, has gone on the record by

stating &the ECT,s reputation has been tainted by

speculation the government could sway ECT decisions.8

6. (SBU) When the dust settled, there was only one big

loser: MP Thanin Chaisamut of Satun Constituency 2 received

a red card because some of his campaign speeches contained

malicious comments, and because his campaign illegally

distributed VCD,s of last October,s Tak Bai anti-riot

operation and blamed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for

the bloodshed. Thanin has filed criminal charges against the

head of the ECT, Police General Vasana Phoemlap, alleging

that he illegally appointed 1,200 election monitors in the

Satun Constituency. The facts are not clear as to whether

Vasana had the power to appoint the monitors on his own, or

if he had consulted with the other four members of the ECT

before doing so. If Vasana is found guilty of exercising

powers beyond his authority, there is a possibility that it

would nullify the results of the ECT, and Thanin would be

allowed to keep his position as MP. In the interim, the

ruling stands but the Democrat Party will be allowed to name

a replacement candidate for the by-election in late October.

 

7. (SBU) The three yellow card recipients, all TRT members,

will have the right to participate in the by-elections late

next month for the right to retain their seat. They are: Mr.

Nawin Bunset of Phichit Constituency 3; Mr. Phayap Pankhet of

Singburi Constituency 1; and Mr. Prasaeng Mongkhonsiri of

Uthai Thani Constituency 1. All three candidates are alleged

to have bribed voters. The TRT has already publicly endorsed

all three candidates in their election ambitions. The most

interesting situation among the three involves the candidates

from Phichit. The ECT disqualified Nawin because he is

alleged to have offered voters 500 baht each (about $12.50

USD) for their vote. Nawin is the son of TRT MP Adul Bunset,

and he narrowly beat out incumbent Siriwat Kachornprasart of

the Mahachon party. Siriwat,s father, Sanan Kachornprasart,

is the leader of the Mahachon party. While Adul was

described as &furious8 over the ECT,s decision about his

son, Sanan said he would petition election monitors from

Bangkok to supervise his son,s by)election.

 

CLOSE CALL FOR OTHER MP\’S

 

8. (SBU) In addition to these four, there are two MP\’s who

were considered for red cards but did not receive them.

These \’winners\’ are Mr. Sata Awaekuechi of Pattani

Constituency 4, a member of the Democrat party; and Mr. Tun

Chintawet of Ubon Ratchathani Constituency 11, a member of

the Mahachon party. Sata was alleged to have defamed his

opponent in Yawi, the native tongue of Malay-Thais in parts

of Southern Thailand. Tun was accused of campaigning after

the election deadline because he made a gesture outside his

voting booth on election day that was interpreted as a signal

for voters to selection his election number. In both cases,

the OJC recommended that these charges be dropped because

there was insufficient supporting evidence.

 

ECT ITSELF UNDER FIRE

 

9. (SBU) Despite the issuing of the red and yellow cards

by the ECT, the decisions are clouded by the possibility that

they will be invalidated due to the allegations made against

2 of the 5 members of the ECT. The two members under fire

are Mr. Charan Buranaphansi and Police General Vasana

Phoemlap (see paragraph 6, above). Charan is accused of

malfeasance while serving as the Director General of the

Department of Probations. When Charan was considered for

another government post in 2000, the National

Counter-Corruption Commission (NCCC) conducted an

investigation and cleared him on all charges; the next year,

a group of officers from the Ministry of the Justice began

another investigation for the same charges. The

investigation remained dormant for several years, until it

resurfaced this month when officials from the Ministry of

Justice (appointed by the Thaksin administration) concluded

that Charan violated civil service rules over a

government-funded project in 2000. At least one member of

Charan,s staff has openly questioned the timing of this

conclusion,, given that the results are being released at

a time when several members of the TRT are being implicated

for election fraud; however, the subject has become unusually

quiet even in the hours following the announcement,

suggesting to some that the TRT is content with just

receiving yellow cards and supporting their candidates to the

full. If either of these Commissioners are found guilty, it

would invalidate their earlier decisions to Red/Yellow card

MP\’s and force the process to begin again at square one.

 

10. Comment. It is not surprising that the ECT members

took a long time to release the results of their

investigation, as it indicates their collective decisions

were not unified. With each and all the penalties requiring

a unanimous consensus, the process can stretch interminably.

Also, possibly more than any other government entity, the ECT

is very sensitive to public perception, especially

accusations that the nominally independent ECT is subject

pressures and blandishments from the Thaksin administration.

Although many people will continue to support the ECT and

claim their decisions were made rationally, fairly, and in

good conscience, critics of the ECT will likely cite the

awarding of the sole red card to an opposition MP as evidence

of the ECT\’s susceptibility to the TRT government\’s

influence. End Comment.

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

July 7, 2011 at 6:04 am

Posted in Confidential, Election

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