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Pheu Thai could be dissolved if Thaksin is found to be interfering, EC warns

PHEU THAI PARTY could be dissolved if it were found to have let former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra interfere with its internal affairs, a senior Election Commission (EC) official warned yesterday.

EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma said the agency was gathering information regarding Thaksin’s alleged interference.
Information or evidence obtained will help the agency determine whether the Political Parties Act was violated and whether the party should be dissolved, he said. The commission is reviewing photos, video clips and media reports, including those of Pheu Thai politicians meeting Thaksin in Hong Kong recently, Jarungvith said. 
“In order to determine whether the party has been influenced, the EC will see if the party lacks the freedom to carry out its activities. If any wrongdoing was committed, the party in question risks being dissolved,” Jarungvith said.
The EC’s reaction came after Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who is also defence minister, called on the agency on Monday to look into Thaksin’s interview, which many critics saw as a move to exercise influence over Pheu Thai. 
In an interview to Japanese TV channel NHK in Hong Kong last week, Thaksin made several comments about the upcoming election, including one predicting that Pheu Thai would win some 300 out of 500 seats in the House of Representatives. Thaksin is not a member of the party nor does he hold an executive post, but he is viewed as Pheu Thai’s patriarch and some say he has retained much influence among its politicians, with many of them referring to him as “Big Boss”.
Many Pheu Thai politicians including senior figures met Thaksin in Hong Kong earlier this month. Similar meetings took place in May in Singapore. The former leader has lived in self-imposed exile since 2008. While in Japan in March, Thaksin predicted a “landslide victory” for Pheu Thai in the next election, and earlier this year, he was also heard condemning party defectors and predicting their election loss.
A new law governing political parties prohibits non-members from interfering in internal affairs and parties from allowing such interference. Those violating the law risk a jail term of between five to 10 years, a fine of between Bt100,000 and Bt200,000, and a ban from elections. The party also faces dissolution. According to the law, the EC can seek an order from the Constitutional Court to have the violating party dissolved.
Jarungvith said yesterday that the agency was scrutinising all political parties suspected of violating the Political Parties Act. A fact-finding committee is being set up and investigations will begin as soon as there was convincing evidence, he added. 
Meanwhile, Pheu Thai leader Wirote Pao-in maintained yesterday that Thaksin had nothing to do with the party and that he had made the remarks as a Thai citizen who was concerned for his country. As for Pheu Thai politicians meeting Thaksin overseas, Wirote said they still respected the former prime minister and the “party had nothing to do” with the meetings. 
Wirote said he saw no valid reason for Pheu Thai to be dissolved due to this matter, as Thaksin has not interfered in the party’s internal affairs. 
The party leader dismissed speculation that Pheu Thai has “spare parties” in case it is dissolved. Observers believe Puea Chat and Puea Tham parties are affiliated with Pheu Thai, and politicians from the former ruling party hold executive posts. 

Published : October 23, 2018