Tue, June 28, 2022

in-focus

Court orders EC to pay THB70 million damages to disqualified election winner


A Chiang Mai court has ordered the Election Commission (EC) to pay 70 million baht in damages to an election candidate who was accused of vote-buying and disqualified after winning the 2019 general election.

Surapol Kietchaiyakorn of the opposition Pheu Thai Party disclosed on Thursday that the Hot Provincial Court in the northern city ruled on Wednesday in his favour in a civil case he had filed against the EC and 14 of its officials.

The court ordered the defendants to pay Surapol more than THB64 million, plus interest, making the total damages exceed THB70 million. The EC and other defendants have one month to appeal the verdict.

The politician said on Thursday that he had sought damages because the EC and others had tainted his reputation by disqualifying him and prohibiting him from contesting elections for a year for violating the electoral law.

Court orders EC to pay THB70 million damages to disqualified election winner Surapol, a seven-time MP from Chiang Mai, was re-elected in the March 2019 general election. But the EC ruled that he had violated the law by giving THB2,000 and a clock to a prominent local monk. The law forbids election candidates from promising cash or other benefits, directly and indirectly, to communities, temples or schools.

At that time, the EC had also issued an “orange card” against Surapol, which in effect prevented him from contesting in a new election called a month later, as well as any other election for a year.

The disqualified election winner later brought his case to the Supreme Court's Election Division, which ruled in September 2020 that there was insufficient evidence to prove that he had made promises in return for votes.

Surapol told a press conference on Thursday that he was happy to be handed “mercy and justice” by the Chiang Mai court in his civil case against the EC.

“I want to tell my voters that I was innocent and did not break any law. My dignity has been restored. The Pheu Thai Party did not buy votes or commit vote fraud as had been alleged,” he said.

His lawyer Pokpong Klapwiset, who was also present at the press conference, said that if the EC refused to apologise or take any responsibility over this matter, the Pheu Thai Party was likely to sue the concerned officials for malfeasance. He claimed that the EC had issued the “orange card” against Surapol after just a little over an hour of discussion.

“The court stated that this was an abuse of power. It was persecution meant to cause damage to the candidate [Surapol],” the lawyer said.

Court orders EC to pay THB70 million damages to disqualified election winner

In the 2019 general election, Surapol came first with 52,165 votes, followed by Naret Thamrongthippayakul of the Palang Pracharath Party (39,221 votes) and Srinual Boonlue of the opposition Future Forward Party (29,556 votes).

Srinual won the new election, but she later defected to the coalition Bhumjaithai Party after Future Forward was dissolved and most of its MPs moved to the opposition Move Forward Party.

Published : April 21, 2022