EC warns Pheu Thai it could face dissolution

EC warns Pheu Thai it could face dissolution

Thaksin's Singapore visit triggers alarm

The Election Commission (EC) has warned that the Pheu Thai Party could be dissolved if its members allow Thaksin Shinawatra to influence the party when they meet the ousted premier in Singapore.

Thaksin and his sister, former premier Yingluck Shinawatra, are believed to be visiting Singapore, arriving yesterday and leaving tomorrow.

The siblings are reportedly attending a cryptocurrency investment conference in Singapore.

EC chairman Supachai Somcharoen said political party members must be cautious when they meet party outsiders -- those who are not party executives or members -- and must not let the outsiders dictate to the party in any way or accept the outsider's money to finance the party.

Thaksin is not technically a member of Pheu Thai though he founded the Thai Rak Thai Party, which was succeeded by the People's Power Party and subsequently by Pheu Thai. Both Thai Rak Thai and the People's Power Party were dissolved for electoral fraud.

If the EC can prove any party allows itself to fall under the influence of an outsider, it faces dissolution under the constitution.

Also, party members instrumental in inviting such dominance will also have their rights to contest an election nullified.

However, Mr Supachai said no complaint has been filed with the EC regarding influencing a party by an outsider so far.

EC acting secretary-general Jarungwit Phumma, who concurrently serves as political party registrar, said the act of exerting influence by an outsider must be studied in detail, as it is prohibited by the organic law on political parties.

Also prohibited is the practice of giving money in foreign currencies to a party.

"But any suspicion [of influence over a party] must have grounds and proof," he said.

In Section 28 of the political parties law, no political party must yield to or submit itself to an act of dominance, committed directly or indirectly, by an outsider which deprives the party or its members of their independence in running the party's affairs.

Section 29 of the law forbids an outsider from controlling, dominating or influencing a political party. Section 108 stipulates punishments against the offender in Section 29, with a jail term of between five to 10 years and/or a fine of between 100,000 and 200,000 baht. The offender will also lose his or her right to run in elections.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he has ordered legal authorities to monitor the former premiers' visit to see if anyone breaks the law.

Gen Prayut, however, declined a suggestion that he reinstate a travel ban on certain politicians who plan to meet overseas which could violate the political parties law. "We cannot pass orders too often," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said Pheu Thai politicians are free to go overseas because the National Council for Peace and Order lifted the travel ban imposed on certain individuals on June 1, 2016.

The travel ban, known as Announcement No.21/2014, was issued the day after the May 22, 2014 coup and largely targeted Pheu Thai politicians and a number of activists.

Gen Prawit declined to comment on whether the reported appearance of the two ex-premiers in Singapore has any links with the planned rally of anti-coup and pro-election activists at Thammasat University's Tha Phrachan campus today.

Pheu Thai deputy secretary-general Chavalit Wichayasut, meanwhile, said while the party understood the EC chairman's reasons for warning about the legal risks, it has done nothing wrong.

It is normal for party members to visit Thaksin, whom they respect, whenever he goes to a country near Thailand, he said.

Mr Chavalit added Thaksin has confided in some party members that he would not direct Pheu Thai's affairs "remotely" because he is not physically in Thailand and does not know enough about what is going on in local politics.

Somkid Cheukong, former Pheu Thai MP for Ubon Ratchathani, said he did not think party members would fly out to see Thaksin in Singapore. Several of them met the former premier in Hong Kong during Chinese New Year earlier this year.

He added that Thaksin, thought to be based in Dubai, usually travels to Singapore and countries in the region on business every five or six months.

His current visit to Singapore is for the same purpose although the former prime minister may also have a medical check-up.

Samart Kaewmeechai, a former Pheu Thai MP for Chiang Rai, admitted some former MPs are flying to Singapore to see Thaksin and Yingluck on a private visit this weekend.

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