Friday, January 11, 2008

Probe chief to resign

Probe chief to resign

Chaiya quits as allegations of bias against PPP circulate

Published on January 6, 2008

The Election Commission is replacing its chief fraud investigator, following allegations that probes were biased against the People Power Party.

Commission secretary-general Suthiphon Thaveechaiygarn said Police Maj-General Chaiya Siri-amphunkul had agreed to quit chairing the fraud investigation subcommittee.

"Maj-General Chaiya insists he did not take sides but agrees to return all documents he is responsible for so there can be a replacement," Suthiphon said.

Special Branch chief Lt-General Taworn Chanyim has been asked to send another senior officer to the commission.

A total of 83 winning candidates, including more than 60 PPP members, have had their election wins suspended pending investigation into alleged fraud.

Meanwhile, commissioner Prapun Naigowit yesterday urged all rival political parties to allow the electoral review to run its course rather than putting pressure on the EC at this stage.

Continued meddling could see the post-election situation spiral out of control, he warned.

"Don't rush to assume the outcome of the electoral review. Ill-intentioned people could take advantage of this to inflame sentiment and blow the issue out of proportion," he said.

Prapun was reacting to Friday's demonstration in Buri Ram against the disqualification of People Power Party candidates.

He said appellate reviews of red cards had not been exhausted, as the Council of State would convene on Monday.

The three disqualified candidates are entitled to present rebuttals in order to overturn red cards, he said, adding that there was always a possibility that the Council of State would disagree with the commission because of new evidence.

The commission will proceed to review every electoral fraud case with caution and based on evidence, he said.

Of the 83 winning candidates whose balloting results were put on hold, six will be endorsed tomorrow as the commission has found no evidence to substantiate accusations of campaign violation, he said.

In repudiating the allegation that the commission had targeted People Power with its probes, he said all of the party's candidates in Lampang had had charges against them dropped and their election endorsed last week, with only Thanathorn Lohsunthorn given a yellow card for links to campaign violations.

As Thanathorn's involvement was indirect, he is entitled to contest a revote on January 13, he said.

He dismissed speculation that the commission had a disqualification quota, saying it was a coincidence Democrat Party secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban had made a close prediction of the number.

The six candidates to have their votes endorsed are four from People Power and two Democrats. The two Democrats are Rewat Areerob and Thosaporn Theppabutr of Phuket. The People Power candidates are Kittikorn Lohsunthorn and Wasit Phayakkabutr, both from Lampang, and Thira Trisoranakul and Wiwatchai Hotrawisaya, both from Si Sa Ket.

In Nakhon Ratchasima, authorities are ready to organise a revote on January 13 in Constituency 3. They have not encountered campaign violations.

Of the 16 House seats up for grabs in the Northeast province, the commission has endorsed the results in five, issued three yellow cards in Constituency 3 and is probing the remaining eight.

In Lampang, the revote is scheduled for January 13 and covers Muang, Hang Chat, Chae Hom, Muang Pan, Ngao and Wang Nua districts.

In a seminar at Thammasat University, law lecturer Worachet Pakheerat called on the commission to quickly complete the endorsement of balloting to pave the way for the formation of a coalition.

Worachet said electoral-fraud investigation should come after a Parliament was convened, which would ensure a smooth transition of power.

He voiced concern about litigation in the Supreme Court, which could lead to the cancellation of the December election results. He said an unfavourable verdict was tantamount to denying the people's voice.

Democrat candidate Chaiwat Sinsuwong has charged People Power with being a nominee of the disbanded Thai Rak Thai Party.

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