Wednesday, January 09, 2008

EC concerned about PPP rally

EC concerned about PPP rally


A proposed rally involving backers of People Power party (PPP) deputy leader Yongyuth Tiyapairat in Bangkok today could get out of control due to interference from trouble-makers, the Election Commission (EC) has warned. Election Commissioner Praphan Naikowit urged PPP supporters to stop putting pressure on election officials to approve the victories of former leading members of the disbanded Thai Rak Thai party.

Mr Praphan said the EC's head office could not handle the rally, if it goes ahead, and expressed concern about the possibility of some people making the situation get out of control.

He was speaking amid reports that kamnans from Chiang Rai, the home province of Mr Yongyuth, were planning to gather at the EC's headquarters in Bangkok today to press for the approval of the PPP member.

Mr Yongyuth is one of 85 election winners who have not yet been endorsed by the EC. He won the proportional representative contest in election zone 1, which included Chiang Rai, in the Dec 23 election.

The EC has not endorsed his victory pending an inquiry into poll fraud, which allegedly involved the payment of air fares and the distribution of cash to a group of Chiang Rai-based tambon chiefs at a hotel in Bangkok in October for their help in campaigning to get votes for the PPP.

Mr Yongyuth will return from Canada to defend the case before the EC today.

Inwan Bang-ngern, the head of a club of northern kamnans and village headmen, admitted that local administrators from Chiang Rai were mobilised for a rally at the EC's head office in Bangkok today when election commissioners will question Mr Yongyuth and his PPP colleagues.

He said 10 kamnans in Mae Chan district who are close to a PPP politician flew to Hong Kong last Thursday to meet the politician.

Chiang Rai election chief Amornpong Vichitakul strongly opposes the plan to put pressure on the EC and called for calm from Mr Yongyuth's supporters while waiting for the decision by the EC.

Last Friday supporters of the PPP also held a rally in Buri Ram after the EC decided to disqualify three winning candidates running in constituency 1.

Prime Minster Surayud Chulanont, speaking at the opening of a new biodiesel plant in Chiang Rai, called on the public to allow the legal process to move forward.

''Thailand cannot use mob rule over the law. To do so would bring the country to a halt,'' Gen Surayud said, commenting on the Buri Ram protest.

A source who is close to Mr Yongyuth said the PPP executive had asked two other winning PPP candidates in Chiang Rai _ his younger sister La-ong Tiyapairat and Itthidej Kaewluang _ to prepare their testimonies for the EC today as well.

Ms La-ong and Mr Itthidej have also been accused of buying votes.

''Mr Yongyuth has asked them to prepare documents and witnesses to rebut the charges. His team are ready to testify,'' said the source.

Concern over a rally planned to support Mr Yongyuth was underlined by a report that an official from the Department of Environment Quality Promotion used a department van to pick up village chiefs and kamnans from Chiang Rai to Suvarnabhumi airport when they arrived in Bangkok to meet Mr Yongyuth to discuss what they could do to help his election campaign.

The department is under the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.

Acting Natural Resources and Environment Minister Yongyuth Yuthavong ordered the ministry to set up a committee to investigate the case.

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