Pheu Thai unfazed by election agency probe of Thaksin meet

Pheu Thai unfazed by election agency probe of Thaksin meet

The Pheu Thai Party believes it can survive possible dissolution as it is now under investigation by the Election Commission (EC) over whether it violated the election law by allegedly having fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra control its affairs from abroad.

Former Pheu Thai MP for Samut Prakan Worachai Hema told the Bangkok Post he suspects the regime wants to disband the party.

He believes the poll organising and regulating agency is independent enough and will not do this unless there are proper grounds however, he said.

But should that happen after a royal decree is issued declaring a date for the general election, expected to be held early next year, the regime could be blamed for creating conflict at a time when the country is in need of unity, Mr Worachai said.

He added this would merely embolden Pheu Thai and other anti-regime parties and ramp up their chances of a landslide victory.

He was referring to Pheu Tham and Pheu Chart as well as the Future Forward Party led by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.

Pheu Thai could potentially transfer its members and candidates over to Pheu Tham, which has already registered with the EC, pundits say. It is widely seen as Pheu Thai's "back-up party" in the event of a "political accident".

Pheu Chart, which registered several years ago, is meant to accommodate former red-shirt leaders affiliated with Pheu Thai, a source said.

Mr Worachai said that if Pheu Thai were to disband, voters in at least 30 constituencies would vote "no" in the election, meaning they use their right to vote but support no one.

The number of such ballots would exceed the number of candidate-backing votes in those constituencies, he predicted, meaning the EC would not be able to endorse MPs or announce the poll results there.

The House of Representatives cannot be convened if the number of MPs voted into parliament is less than the required 95% of the full number of 500 MPs, Mr Worachai said.

Pheu Thai's fate is said to be hanging in the balance as it is under investigation by the EC for allegedly violating a key law on political parties.

The EC probe was triggered by ousted prime minister Thaksin making a video call to Pheu Thai Party members, a number of whom have ventured overseas to meet him on several occasions, fuelling suspicion he still controls the party while living in exile.

The law prohibits a party from agreeing to be influenced by an outsider, an offence that may lead to its dissolution.

Pheu Thai members fear the probe is a tactic to eliminate the party from the general election, tentatively scheduled for mid-February.

A party source said Thaksin met Pheu Thai acting secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai and Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, another key member, with other ex-MPs at a hotel in Hong Kong on Aug 8.

They discussed the party's next moves ahead of the election and the possibility of a political accident, the source said.

EC deputy secretary-general Sawaeng Boonmee said the EC has set up a panel to look into claims Thaksin still dominates the party, adding that the panel will summon the former MPs who met Thaksin to provide details of what was discussed.


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