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Door now open for more agencies to reclaim their money

Thaksin could now be sued for falsely declaring his telecom business assets

The Supreme Court's Criminal Division of the Political Office Holders has indeed set a high standard for its landmark rulings in the Bt76 billion asset-seizure case. The rulings cover a broad range of dimensions that help restore law and order and bring an end to the most contentious legal problems.

Politically speaking, the rulings give both sides something to take home. Many heaved a big relief after the Court's verdict, which sought to strike a delicate balance. For Thaksin's bashers, the seizure of Bt46 billion is a severe punishment for his abuse of power, though they would like the Court to order a confiscation of all of Thaksin's assets of Bt76 billion. For Thaksin's supporters, they can't really point their fingers to a "double standard" because Thaksin is being given back Bt30 billion. This amount is what Thaksin had earned before he entered politics in 2001.

In the legal term, the Court sticks to both the spirit and the letter of the law. In the spirit of the law, there is overwhelmingly compelling evidence to suggest that Thaksin and his wife Khunying Pojaman Damapong concealed their assets. Both still controlled Shin Corp between 2001 and 2006 while Thaksin was serving the premiership. With the political power in his hand, Thaksin could initiate policies to benefit Shin Corp before selling the company out to Temasek Holdings of Singapore. Thaksin is found guilty in both hiding his assets and abusing his political power to benefit Shin Corp.

There is a legal trick when it comes to the judges' determination of the letter of the law. Was Thaksin becoming unusually rich as a result of the abuse of power or were his assets increased abnormally? The Assets Examination Committee, which wrapped up the unusually rich case against Thaksin, would like the Court to seize all of Thaksin's assets, which in this particular case represented his Bt76-billion proceedings from the sale of Shin Corp. Other assets of Thaksin were not involved at all.

If Thaksin were found to be unusually rich as a result of the abuse of his power, then the Court must order a seizure of all of his assets. But the prosecutors steered the case in such a way that Thaksin's abuse of power led to the increase of his wealth from the pre-2001 level up to the time he sold off Shin Corp in 2006. For this reason, the Court could not go beyond the letter of the law by ordering a total seizure of Bt76 billion. The Court was convinced that as a result of the policy corruption, Thaksin's shares in Shin Corp increased during 2001 and 2006. So the Court ruled that the state could only take away the capital gains Thaksin reaped from Shin Corp during his premiership.

But most important, the Court leaves open the possibilities for other state agencies, which stood to lose more than a combined Bt100 billion during Thaksin's premiership, to sue Thaksin and reclaim their money. More than criminal cases could be filed against Thaksin for falsifying his asset declaration and for his creating damage to the state agencies related to the telecom business.

Socially speaking, Thais want justice. And as we know, justice means different things to different people. It is impossible to satisfy all Thais. But the Supreme Court, in this landmark asset-seizure case, has performed its duty in the classic Thai sense of yuti tham (yuti=end; tham=dharmma) - ending the legal conflict with Dharmma.

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