Convicted PDRC five lose their MP status

Convicted PDRC five lose their MP status

Co-leaders of now-defunct People's Democratic Reform Committee on Wednesday rise to their feet in the Constitutional Court, which ordered them to relinquish their status as MPs after they were jailed by the Criminal Court this year for their role in protests between 2013 and 2014. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Co-leaders of now-defunct People's Democratic Reform Committee on Wednesday rise to their feet in the Constitutional Court, which ordered them to relinquish their status as MPs after they were jailed by the Criminal Court this year for their role in protests between 2013 and 2014. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled that five co-leaders of the now-defunct People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) have lost their status as MPs.

The five are Chumpol Julsai, a Democrat Party MP for Chumphon; Issara Somchai, a Democrat Party list MP; Thaworn Senneam, a Democrat MP for Songkhla; Buddhipongse Punnakanta, a Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) list MP; and Nataphol Teepsuwan, also a PPRP list MP.

On Feb 24, the Criminal Court handed down jail sentences to various people, including the five, for their roles in the PDRC protests in 2013 and 2014. The protests led to the coup that ousted the Pheu Thai Party-led administration.

As a result of the ruling, Mr Thaworn later quit as deputy transport minister, Mr Buddhipongse as digital economy and society minister and Mr Nataphol as education minister. They were released on bail pending appeal.

However, their status as MPs remained in doubt. The Election Commission (EC) decided the politicians should lose their MP status as well, citing a law which bars a person convicted of criminal charges and facing a jail term from being an MP. The EC referred the case to the Constitutional Court for interpretation.

That court said their MP status must be relinquished even though an appeal was pending.

The court cited Section 98 (6) of the charter which makes no mention of a phrase allowing them to remain as MPs until the Criminal Court ruling is made final, namely the end of the appeal process.

As a result, the five's status as MPs technically ended on April 7 when the Constitutional Court ordered them to cease their duties as cabinet ministers under Section 82 of the charter.

The court also said that even though the five politicians co-led the protests as was their constitutional right, they remained liable for criminal actions that resulted from them.

Yesterday's ruling effectively left seats vacant in Chumphon's Constituency 1 and Songkhla's Constituency 6. By-elections will be held in those constituencies.

A royal decree will be issued calling for the by-elections within 45 days. The list MP slots will be filled by the next people on the list of the respective parties.

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