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06BANGKOK2567 COURTS LEAN TOWARD NULLIFICATION; TRT FIGHTS BACK

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“62459”,”5/2/2006 9:34″,”06BANGKOK2567″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

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

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 002567

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/24/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH, Thai Political Updates, Elections – Thai

SUBJECT: COURTS LEAN TOWARD NULLIFICATION; TRT FIGHTS BACK

 

Classified By: Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce reason 1.4 (b) (d)

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: On May 1, a justice of the Central

Administrative Court indicated that the April MP elections

would likely be annulled. He expected a ruling on the key

cases within a week to ten days. However, the ruling Thai

Rak Thai party is marshaling its forces to oppose

nullification. Even if they successfully beat the current

odds and salvage this election, they may do themselves

lasting damage with the voters — defying the King, whose

strong criticism of the elections started the courts on the

path to nullification. TRT also foreshadowed a come-back for

Thaksin, saying if the elections are nullified, Thaksin\’s

promise to sit out a round is also off. END SUMMARY.

 

2. (C) Polcouns met May 1 with Vishnu Varunyou, Deputy Chief

Justice of the Central Administrative Court. Vishnu

discussed the status of about 10 lawsuits brought before the

Administrative court concerning the conduct of the April MP

elections. (The Central Administrative Court issued the

injunction on April 28 forestalling the last round of the

elections, and it has jurisdiction over several other cases.

There are also several other cases filed in the Supreme Court

and the Constitutional Court.) Although Vishnu stopped just

short of stating openly that the elections would be annulled,

he made clear that it was his expectation. \”It\’s in the

air,\” he said; everyone expects that the courts will annul

the elections. Now, the courts just have to decide what

reasoning they can use to support the decision once they

formally reach it. Vishnu thought that the rulings on key

cases would be issued within about a week to 10 days.

 

NO SHORTAGE OF CASES

——————–

 

3. (C) According to Vishnu, only three of the court cases

before the Administrative court at this time could lead to

the nullification of the elections. These were brought by

the opposition Democrat Party, by the Law Society, and by

NGOs. They each concern the original decree which dissolved

the Parliament and set the date for the elections 37 days

later. The law says that snap elections must be held within

60 days, but gives no minimum period. At the time the

elections were called, there were many complaints that the 37

day deadline was too short to permit opposition parties to

organize and campaign. The government countered that the

elections had to be held quickly to permit the new government

to be installed before the very important celebrations in

June for the King\’s highly auspicious sixtieth anniversary on

the throne. Once the opposition boycotted, this issue

appeared to become moot, but it is back now with a vengeance.

 

4. (C) The other issues before the courts, including cases

about permitting new candidates to register for the second

and third rounds, and the re-positioning of the voting booths

(which led to a lack of ballot secrecy) could not be grounds

for annulling the elections. According to Vishnu, these could

only be grounds for holding a re-vote with the same

candidates, after correcting the problems the court would

identify.

 

DISSOLVE TRT?

————-

 

5. (C) The other hot case has been brought by the Democrat

Party to the Constitutional Court. In that case, the

Democrats repeat their allegation that high-ranking members

of the ruling Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party paid microparties to

register candidates so the TRT would not be the only

candidate in many constituencies. Sole candidates had to win

20 percent of the total eligible vote, a bar too high in many

districts in which TRT is unpopular. With an opponent, a

simple majority of votes cast wins. The Democrats claim to

have good evidence, including eye-witness testimony,

implicating the Minister of Defense and other senior TRT

officials. The Election Commission has already announced

that at least one of the microparties that admitted

falsifying documents to register candidates should be

dissolved. The Democrats want the courts to find that TRT

should also be dissolved. This seems a highly unlikely

outcome, especially from the Constitutional Court, believed

to lean toward TRT. However, it is difficult to rule

anything out at this point.

 

JURISDICTION QUESTIONS

———————-

 

6. (C) Vishnu explained that it had been difficult for the

courts to grapple with the problems of these elections in

part because the Election Commission has very strong

authority to conduct the voting as it sees fit. Both the

1997 Constitution and a 2003 Constitutional Court ruling give

the EC a broad mandate that appears to preclude most

juridical review of its decisions. Vishnu said that this was

due to past experience, in which the courts had been

ill-equipped to handle legal challenges to EC decisions, and

had been unable to resolve issues in a timely fashion (a

general problem for the courts here.) Therefore, the new

constitution limited the courts\’ authority over the EC.

Thus, the courts had ducked several cases brought earlier in

the elections claiming they had no jurisdiction. This is the

background to the King\’s repeated admonitions to the court in

his speech last week: \”I appeal to you to look into this

issue carefully to see whether it involves the country\’s

administration. Do your best. If you cannot discharge your

duties, you have to resign…\”

 

TRT FIGHTS BACK

—————

 

7. (C) Illustrating the problem, the EC is filing a

countersuit against the Administrative Court, claiming that

the court has no jurisdiction to interfere with the EC\’s

conduct of the elections. And it is just beginning to dawn on

the ruling Thai Rak Thai party (TRT) that their 480 or so

parliamentary seats may be in jeopardy. Several party

members have been quoted in the press this week warning

against nullification. A senior official reportedly said

that if this happens, elected MPs should have the right to

sue for compensation. \”A candidate carries the 1.5 million

baht (about USD40,000) per person campaign costs, so we

should ask lawyers who we can sue and who takes

responsibility for the damage.\” (Comment: Since most of the

TRT candidates ran unopposed, one could ask why the campaign

cost so much. End comment.) Another TRT MP threatened a TRT

boycott of new elections. (Comment: unlikely. End comment.)

 

8. (SBU) TRT members have also raised questions about

caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin\’s \”political break.\” Deputy

PM Chidchai told the press that, if the elections are

annulled, it\’s a whole new ballgame, and Thaksin\’s promise to

sit out one round could be reconsidered. Chidchai

subsequently walked back these remarks, but other TRT

officials have also raised this possibility. Caretaker Prime

Minister Thaksin, who returned quietly from his international

travel over the weekend, has so far been silent about all

these questions.

 

COMMENT

——-

 

9. (C) After the King\’s April 25 speech, the momentum was

all behind the move to annul the elections, and the courts

moved with surprising swiftness. TRT and its supporters are

now gathering up their forces for a counterattack. They may

still be able to salvage the elections, but this could be a

losing strategy in the long run The King\’s comments were

balanced and avoided pointing the finger directly at any one

player in the election drama. However, they made it clear

that the King had grave concerns about the elections. TRT

could suffer serious political damage if it openly defies the

King and champions these elections, especially as the

opposition has been quick to accept the King\’s

recommendations and has said they will run in the replacement

elections without any preconditions.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 11, 2011 at 8:04 am

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