Leniency law offers Yongyuth a lifeline

Dems insist minister resign for Alpine acts

Interior permanent secretary Phranai Suwannarat insists Yongyuth Wichaidit can keep his interior minister post despite a ruling against him over his handling of the Alpine land case.

Mr Phranai yesterday spoke to the media to clarify Mr Yongyuth's case after the ministry's Civil Service Committee (CSC) resolved on Sept 14 to retroactively dismiss him from the civil service. The dismissal order took effect retroactively on Sept 30, 2002.

The committee's resolution follows the National Anti-Corruption Commission's (NACC) decision to indict him on charges of unlawfully certifying the sale of monastic land owned by Wat Thammikaram to Alpine Real Estate Co and Alpine Golf & Sports Club Co during his stint as interior deputy permanent secretary.

Mr Phranai said Mr Yongyuth stood to benefit from the 2007 Exoneration Act, which provides leniency to people convicted of crimes or disciplinary violations if they have never committed the crime before.

Mr Yongyuth, therefore, was not disqualified from holding a political post, said Mr Phranai, referring to the opinion of the Council of State.

The Sangha Supreme Council and Wat Thammikaram, owners of the donated land, also agreed with the way Mr Yongyuth handled the case, Mr Phranai said.

Mr Yongyuth yesterday said he was not worried about his case as he had done nothing wrong.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva urged the interior minister to accept responsibility over the Alpine land sale scandal.

As the Pheu Thai-led government claimed the moral high road in its anti-corruption drive and campaign against abuse of authority, its cabinet members should take responsibility when it came to corruption, said Mr Abhisit.

His legal team would look into whether Mr Yongyuth could benefit from the Exoneration Act.

The party would also examine the legal possibility of seeking the Constitution Court's ruling on whether Mr Yongyuth should relinquish his ministerial posts.

Democrat MP for Songkhla Wirat Kallayasiri, a member of the party's legal team, said the Exoneration Act could not clear Mr Yongyuth of his wrongdoing as the minister was supposed to have served the terms of his punishment before the legislation was issued.

He demanded Mr Yongyuth immediately leave the cabinet. Otherwise, the prime minister and the entire cabinet must take responsibility if Mr Yongyuth chairs the cabinet meeting tomorrow.

Democrat list MP Ong-art Klampaibul yesterday said Mr Yongyuth's case was unlikely to benefit from the 2007 Exoneration Act as the minister has never been disciplined over his handling of the Alpine land case.

He urged the premier to instruct Mr Yongyuth to abide by the ruling for the sake of the cabinet's dignity.

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Writer: Manop Thip-Osod
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