Pheu Thai rud­der­less as poll looms

Pun­dits say fu­ture of the party re­mains bleak as graft scan­dal re-emerges, writes Aekarach Sat­tabu­ruth

Bangkok Post - - FRONT PAGE -

News of Thaksin Shi­nawa­tra pre­dict­ing the Pheu Thai Party will win at the next elec­tion might shore up the sag­ging spirit of sup­port­ers. But de­spite the up­beat news, the fu­ture of the Pheu Thai Party re­mains bleak, ac­cord­ing to pun­dits.

The down­turn started early this year af­ter news that many would de­fect to join the pro-mil­i­tary govern­ment. It has been re­ported that at least 50 mem­bers would leave the party.

But the ma­jor blow for the party will be a graft in­ves­ti­ga­tion that might lead to scores of party mem­bers be­ing ban­ished from pol­i­tics for five years.

A Na­tional Anti-Cor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion (NACC) in­quiry panel is prob­ing at least two le­gal cases in which a num­ber of Pheu Thai key fig­ures are sus­pects.

Sup­port­ers of the party and pun­dits have per­ceived the graft in­ves­ti­ga­tion as a tool to wipe out the party and thwart its am­bi­tion to re­turn to power af­ter the gen­eral elec­tion.

First is the probe against 40 of Pheu Thai’s ex-law­mak­ers who are ac­cused of abuse of au­thor­ity.

Five years ago, these ex-MPS en­dorsed the amnesty bill and put it for­ward for de­lib­er­a­tion by the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives dur­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Yingluck Shi­nawa­tra.

The bill was crit­i­cised for its al­leged im­plicit aim of ben­e­fit­ing Thaksin as it set out to nul­lify cor­rup­tion cases from 2006.

The sec­ond case is about the 1.9 bil­lion baht com­pen­sa­tion which the Yingluck ad­min­is­tra­tion paid to vic­tims of vi­o­lence dur­ing po­lit­i­cal protests.

Those who were el­i­gi­ble to the fund were protesters or their rel­a­tives af­fected by the state crack­down on po­lit­i­cal protests from 2005-2010.

De­spite the fund be­ing ap­proved for all af­flicted protesters, crit­ics said those re­ceiv­ing wind­falls are red-shirt protesters that sup­port the party.

The NACC, how­ever, will look into claims that com­pen­sa­tion was not paid out in line with the 1959 Bud­get Pro­ce­dures Act, caus­ing more than 1.9 bil­lion baht in dam­age to state cof­fers.

The probe im­pli­cates Yingluck, who has fled the coun­try, and 33 for­mer cab­i­net min­is­ters in her govern­ment for fail­ing to com­ply with the law.

They are known among the party as “the cream of the crop” — key party fig­ures and fu­ture po­lit­i­cal as­sets such as Kit­ti­ratt NaRanong and for­mer trans­port min­is­ter Chad­chart Sit­tipunt.

It is un­clear when the NACC will de­cide on the case of the 40 ex-law­mak­ers.

But for the sec­ond case, NACC mem­ber Supa Piya­jitti, who is head­ing the in­quiry panel in­ves­ti­gat­ing the com­pen­sa­tion case, has con­firmed they will come to a fi­nal ver­dict and for­ward it to NACC’s main board next month.

If the NACC agrees that the com­pen­sa­tion pay­ment vi­o­lated the law, it will for­ward the case to the Supreme Court’s Crim­i­nal Divi­sion for Po­lit­i­cal-Of­fice Hold­ers.

If 34 mem­bers are found guilty by the supreme court, they will be banned for five years.

Yut­tha­porn Is­sarachai, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Sukhothai Tham­mathi­rat Open Univer­sity, said the NACC rul­ing on the case would send rip­ples through the party.

“Those im­pli­cated in the 1.9 bil­lion baht com­pen­sa­tion case are the cream of the party’s crop,” he said, adding that the NACC’s probe into com­pen­sa­tion could be a move to wipe out the whole party,” he said.

He said among 33 mem­bers, Mr Chad­chart is a valu­able as­set to en­sure the party’s ex­is­tence.

In 2006, the same party yet un­der the name of Thai Rak Thai, had been dis­solved and its 111 ex­ec­u­tives banned from pol­i­tics for five years in 2007, the party rein­car­nated it­self as the Peo­ple Power in 2008, and Pheu Thai in 2011.

De­spite the po­lit­i­cal ban, Thaksin is be­lieved to re­tain a strong in­flu­ence within the Pheu Thai Party, and is able to push his “nom­i­nees” the late Sa­mak Sun­dar­avej and his brother-in-law Som­chai Wong­sawat, and his sis­ter Yingluck Shi­nawa­tra to the prime min­is­ter’s seat.

How­ever, for now, the fu­ture of the party looks bleak as these new prox­ies may not be up to the task.

Another fac­tor that will hold back the party, are the new po­lit­i­cal party reg­u­la­tions, he said.

The new law in­volv­ing the elec­tions of MPs tends to favour small and medi­um­sized par­ties, giv­ing them more bar­gain­ing power in form­ing a coali­tion govern­ment.

As a re­sult, Mr Yut­tha­porn said he did not think Pheu Thai would win enough seats to be­come part of the core of a coali­tion a govern­ment af­ter the next elec­tion.

Their down­fall also stems from within the party it­self, Mr Yut­tha­porn said.

Cur­rently, Pheu Thai re­mains with­out a leader ca­pa­ble of ral­ly­ing the party to an elec­tion vic­tory, he said.

Those im­pli­cated in the 1.9 bil­lion baht com­pen­sa­tion case are the cream of the party’s crop.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Thailand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.