Saturday, August 16, 2008

Nabbing Thaksin 'no easy task'

Nabbing Thaksin 'no easy task'

Thailand never ratified int'l corruption treaty


Efforts by Thai authorities to bring former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife Khunying Potjaman to justice remain a pipe dream as Thailand has signed but not ratified an international treaty against corruption, according to public prosecutors.

After realising the difficulties of getting the couple back from the United Kingdom by extradition, authorities are now studying alternatives including using an international corruption treaty.

Sirisak Tiyapan, the executive director of the Office of the Attorney-General's International Affairs, said Thailand had signed the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2006, but had delayed ratification of the treaty, which has made it impossible to enforce.

Had Thailand ratified the treaty, there would have been no need to seek extradition of the couple to stand trial in Thailand, he said. Under the terms of the convention, Thai authorities would have been technically able to have Mr Thaksin and his wife stand trial in a neutral country without having to seek their extradition, Mr Sirisak said. UNCAC's key areas cover corruption prevention, criminalisation and law enforcement, international cooperation and asset retrieval.

Mr Sirisak said Thailand had delayed ratification of the treaty because a review of several related laws, including the anti-money laundering law and the Criminal Code, has not been completed.

''I understand the review of legal issues related to the convention is under the responsibility of the Foreign Ministry and the Justice Ministry,'' he said.

Assoc Prof Prasit Piwawattanapanich, a law lecturer at Thammasat University, agreed there is little hope of bringing the couple back to Thailand.

The couple were indicted on corruption charges involving Khunying Potjaman's purchase of government land at deflated prices while Mr Thaksin was the prime minister. They have skipped bail and fled to London.

Mr Thaksin accused his political opponents of meddling in the judicial system and claimed his life was in danger.

Assoc Prof Prasit noted their escape to England had been calculated, saying the extradition process cannot proceed until the Supreme Court passes a ruling.

''As long as they are not found guilty, they remain only accused and there is nothing authorities can do about the couple. Mr Thaksin can wait until a verdict is handed down before he starts seeking political asylum,'' he said.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court's Criminal Section for Holders of Political Positions yesterday rejected a request by the couple's lawyers to withdraw the case or have the Ratchadapisek land case suspended.

The couple's lawyers, led by Khamnuan Chalopatham, asked the court to withdraw the charges on the grounds that their clients did not require their services. They also asked the court to drop the case on the grounds that the defendants had fled overseas and were not considered to be still under the court's jurisdiction.

The court spent an hour considering the request and dismissed it, saying the request was a tactic to have the trial suspended. The court said the defendants abandoned their rights to fight the charges when they skipped bail. It also ordered the lawyers to continue representing the couple and presenting defence witnesses to the court.

Wichit Chuenban, a legal adviser for Mr Thaksin, said he suspected certain members of the Council for National Security (CNS), which was made up of key leaders of the coup that toppled Mr Thaksin, had vested interests in the decision of the Assets Scrutiny Committee's decision to seize 76 billion baht in assets from Mr Thaksin.

He said the ASC's decision to seize the assets could have been ''prescribed'' by the CNS, noting that the ASC's regulations states that anyone who gives tips about ill-gotten assets will receive a reward worth 25% of the seized assets.

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