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Bangkok Governor

Democrats say they are ready to defend Sukhumbhand

Pheu Thai pours scorn on opposition party's stance, saying it is irresponsible

THE DEMOCRAT PARTY'S legal team is ready to come to the defence of Bangkok Governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra after the Election Commission decided to ask the Court of Appeals to order a re-election for the governor's post.

Meanwhile, Pheu Thai Party deputy spokesman Anusorn Iamsa-ard called on the Democrats to show responsibility.

The EC on Tuesday voted 3:2 for recommending a gubernatorial re-election after deciding that Sukhumbhand had won the poll on March 3 last year with the help of slanderous campaigns assisted by a fellow politician, which had given him an advantage over other candidates.

The EC decision would need to be endorsed under a Court of Appeals ruling before a new election can be held.

"Abhisit [Vejjajiva, Democrat leader] used to say that political responsibility is higher than legal responsibility. How would the Democrats be responsible for [defending Sukhumbhand in] this case? Will it field someone for the re-election, when national reform has not been finished yet? Or will it continue to boycott the election?" Anusorn said.

Democrat deputy leader Ongart Klampaiboon said the party was ready to defend Sukhumbhand in court, and was confident of his innocence. He did not say who would represent the party in the event of a re-election.

Meanwhile, Sukhumbhand went to work at Bangkok City Hall yesterday, but declined to give an interview.

A source from his team, however, said Sukhumbhand nearly decided to resign upon learning of the EC's decision, but changed his mind after being requested to reconsider his position by his team.

The source, who asked not to be named, said the Democrat Party was expected to file Sukhumbhand's name to run in any gubernatorial re-election, as he was not the person who had made the problematic speeches last year.

A source from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration said Sukhumbhand had scheduled a meeting with his team and legal advisers for yesterday evening.

EC member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said the commission had done its duty honestly. Three out of four speeches made by Suthep Thaugsuban - then a Democrat MP for Surat Thani - on the party's election campaign stages could be considered slanderous against a Pheu Thai Party candidate.

While the content of what Suthep said could not be proved, it might have affected voters, he said.

Under Article 239 of the Constitution, if the court agrees to consider ordering a re-election as suggested by the electoral watchdog, the incumbent official must be suspended from duty. Meanwhile, the court's ruling is considered final.

Although the EC on Tuesday said the Court of Appeals Region 1 would have to make the final decision, the court's president said it should actually be the Central Court of Appeals as the Court of Appeals Region 1 is in charge of cases in Bangkok's adjacent provinces.

The president of the Central Court of Appeals yesterday declined to comment on the matter.

Deputy national police chief Pol General Pongsapat Pongcharoen, who was Pheu Thai's candidate for Bangkok governor last year, said it would depend on the party whether to field him again.




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