02 December 2008

“The Court had no other option...”

Democracy Monument

This afternoon, the Constitutional Court announced its verdict in the vote-buying and fraud cases against three ruling coalition parties. All three parties (Chart Thai, Matchima Thipataya, and the People Power Party) were found guilty, and are thus automatically dissolved. Their executives, including PPP leader and Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, are now banned from politics for the next five years.

Somchai, Thaksin Shinawatra’s brother-in-law, had been PM for only three months. He was appointed following the disqualification of Samak Sundaravej earlier this year. Samak’s removal emboldened the People’s Alliance for Democracy, who had been occupying Government House. On 5th and 6th October, the PAD also blockaded parliament, though they were dispersed by riot police on 7th October. One protester was killed by an exploding tear gas cannister; Queen Sirikit presided over her funeral on 13th October, in an apparent signal of support for the royalist PAD.

The head of the nine judges defended today’s decision, saying: “The Court had no other option”. The judgement marks the third guilty verdict against parties affiliated with Thaksin, after Samak’s disqualification and the dissolution of Thai Rak Thai. Today’s decision seems designed to placate the PAD, and it has already been described as a judicial coup.