Court shelves civil case against Suthep over polls

Court shelves civil case against Suthep over polls

Suthep Thaugsuban (front), chairman of the People's Democratic Reform Committee Foundation, arrives at the Civil Court in Bangkok on Monday. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)
Suthep Thaugsuban (front), chairman of the People's Democratic Reform Committee Foundation, arrives at the Civil Court in Bangkok on Monday. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)

The Civil Court has temporarily disposed of a civil case against Suthep Thaugsuban and 39 others for impeding the 2014 general election, pending the outcome of a criminal case against them.

The Election Commission (EC) filed the suit against the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protesters, led by Mr Suthep, seeking damages of 3 billion baht.

Mr Suthep told Thai media the court on Monday checked the details of the case -- whether the indictment was comprehensive, the statute of limitations was valid and the plaintiff had the authority to file the lawsuit. 

At this stage, the EC prepared 126 witnesses while Mr Suthep and his co-defenders have 50 witnesses, he said.

“The court also asked me about the lawsuits I’m facing now, which include charges ranging from insurrection, illegal association and illegal assembly to obstructing an election.”

The court later decided to temporarily dispose of the civil case until the ruling of the criminal case comes.

The Criminal Court scheduled the examination of evidence in the criminal case on June 25.

Mr Suthep said the case should be deliberated based on intention.

“The PDRC, the people and I exercised our civil right to fight with caution and we view what we did was not illegitimate.

“Since we’re convinced we had acted honestly, we’re confident of winning the case,” Mr Suthep said. 

Asked whether he still backed Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha as the new prime minister, Mr Suthep denied ever having said so, according to Prachachart Turakit.

“What I said was that I support Gen Prayut so he can fulfil his duty as the prime minister. It’s too soon to say whether Gen Prayut should return to continue with national reforms.”

On the possibility the PDRC would set up its own party, Mr Suthep said his group would not set up a party by that name.

“Those of us who were politicians have returned to their [Democrat] party. Some joined other parties. But for me, I insist I would not return to the Democrat party nor would I set up a party.

“But if in the future people think about setting up a party based on the PDRC’s directives, I stand ready to support it and might join it. But there’s nothing now.”  

The PDRC took to the streets in 2013 after the Pheu Thai-dominated House passed an amnesty bill. The protesters, led by then secretary-general Suthep viewed the bill would whitewash former prime minister Thaksin, Yingluck’s brother, whom they viewed was highly corrupt.

The Senate later rejected the bill but the protests stepped up its demand to forcing Yingluck to step down, prompting the Pheu Thai-backed red shirt to rally and some clashes ensued.

During the protests at this stage, the PDRC closed several public offices and main streets in its operation Bangkok Shutdown.

Yingluck agreed to dissolve the House in late 2013 and called an election on Feb 2 the following year. She refused calls for her to resign, saying her status was only as caretaking PM overseeing the election. 

The PDRC refused to accept the election as a solution and called for an unelected People’s Council to handle national reform before the election was held.

To achieve that, they blocked poll units across the country and urged voters to “vote no” or cast a blank ballot.

A month after the election, the Constitutional Court nullified it on technicalities. It later removed Yingluck and some ministers on May 7 over the 2011 transfer of a National Security Council chief, resulting in a vacuum of power. Gen Prayut staged a military coup on May 22.

The EC later said 46.8% of 43 million voters managed to cast the ballots in 68 provinces in the 2014 election. The voting in nine southern provinces was cancelled due to a shortage of ballot papers. The results were never known.

Mr Suthep has since reduced his role to being the chairman of the PDRC Foundation.

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