EC asked to nip Palang Pracharat in the bud

EC asked to nip Palang Pracharat in the bud

Suriya Jungrungreangkij (seated centre) and Somsak Thepsuthin (seated second left) pose for a group photo with former MPs in Nakhon Ratchasima when they visited the province on June 18. (Photo by Prasit Tangprasert)
Suriya Jungrungreangkij (seated centre) and Somsak Thepsuthin (seated second left) pose for a group photo with former MPs in Nakhon Ratchasima when they visited the province on June 18. (Photo by Prasit Tangprasert)

A former Pheu Thai MP has asked the Election Commission to scrap the application of Palang Pracharat Party on the ground its founders might have been offering cash and non-cash benefits to poach politicians of other parties and using state resources to finance the group’s policies.

Suchart Lai-namngern submitted a letter to the EC on Monday asking it to reject the application of the party.

The ex-Lop Buri MP also asked the EC to launch an investigation into two deputy prime ministers -- Prawit Wongsuwon and Somkid Jatusripitak, as well as Industry minister Uttama Savanayana, Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong and the group known as the Three Allies, who might have collaborated in activities in breach of the constitution and the Political Parties Act.

Mr Suchart also urged the EC to ask the prime minister to order the ministers to stop using state resources and personnel to benefit a certain group in the upcoming election.

He cited Section 169 (4) of the charter which prohibits cabinet ministers from using state resources in any activity that may affect a poll and the use of the Three Allies to do the poaching for the new party. 

According to Mr Samart, Somsak Thepsuthin and Suriya Jungrungreangkij, two of the Three Allies, offered some former Pheu Thai MPs benefits, both directly and indirectly, in exchange for them to join the new party.

Mr Samart claimed the move violated Sections 30 and 31 of the Political Parties Act, punishable by 5-10 years in jail, a fine not more than 100,000 baht and a five-year political ban.

“There have been reports Mr Somkid used Government House to draft Palang Pracharat party’s policies. He also met some former politicians at InterContinental Bangkok Hotel on May 11 to lure them to join the party by offering benefits in exchange.”

Mr Somkid allegedly showed the party’s 10 policies to the ex-MPs and told them they would be completed by this government. “The deputy prime minister told them the general election won’t take place as long as they are not done.”

Gen Prawit and Mr Sonthirat also stood behind the founders of the Palang Prachart party and said they would support it, he added.

Mr Suchart said he had evidence to be submitted to the EC -- a copy of Line chat messages of former Lop Buri MPs Pichai Kiatwinaisakul and Pirom Polviset who had been approached by the Three Allies group.

According to Mr Suchart, the benefits offered included cash, debt repayments or monthly salaries of their choice.

“The target former MPs are divided into three grades, depending on their popularity, similar to football stars. Those on the A-list get cash incentives of 50 million baht each, 30 million for grade B and 20 million for Grade C. It will be paid after they joined the party,” Mr Samart claimed but admitted he did not have evidence on these alleged offers.

Also on Monday, EC deputy secretary general Sawang Boonmee issued a statement saying the EC was closely monitoring activities of politicians and gathering evidence. “What we’ll do depends on the facts and whether they broke the laws,” read the statement.

The document did not refer to any specific activities but it was believed to be in response to a meeting between some former Pheu Thai MPs and former party leader Thaksin Shinawatra, not to the Palang Pracharat group’s activities.

Earlier reports indicate dozens of Pheu Thai MPs, especially those in the Northeast, agreed to join Palang Pracharat on promises of rewards and "help" with cases for those facing lawsuits. Some Pheu Thai core members, including Thaksin, commented the phenomenon was a blessing in disguise because the party would be left with those who were truly loyal to it.    

The Three Allies group, also referred to as the three S'es -- Mr Somkid, Mr Somsak and Mr Suriya -- played key roles in Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party and governments in the 2000s.

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