Thai PM testifies as witness in EC-fund-misusing case

20:34, October 18, 2010      

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Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva testified as a key witness Monday at the Constitution Court for a fund-misusing case, which, with an unfavorable ruling, could lead to the dissolution of his ruling Democrat Party and bring down his government.

Abhisit told reporters after his testimony that his party had not misused a 29-million-baht (967,000 U.S. dollars) contribution fund from the Election Commission (EC).

"The EC had audited and endorsed that the fund had been used correctly," Abhisit told reporters after his testimony to the Constitution Court as a defense witness. "They had never told us to make any correction."

Abhisit's testimony coincided with a release of five video clips over the Internet, in which the Democrat MP Virach Romyen, who is also a defense lawyer in this court case, was talking to Pasit Sakdanarong, the personal secretary to the president of the Constitution Court.

The main opposition Puea Thai Party on Sunday replayed the video clips to media and accused the Democrat Party of trying to lobbying the court to rule in favor of the Democrats.

Constitution Court Judge Udomsak Nitimontri told a press conference on Monday that the court has dismissed Pasit with immediate effect on the grounds that he has been "involved in a matter damaging the reputation of the Constitution Court."

Udomsak said the court has set up a committee to investigate the video clip.

"The Constitution Court has been performing its duties with independence and impartiality," he said. "No one has interfered with us."

Abhisit denied on Monday his party had tried to lobby the Constitution Court in this fund-misusing case, in which a ruling against the Democrats could dissolve the party, bring down the government and ban Abhisit from politics for five years.

"Our party has no need or intention to lobby the court," Abhisit said. "We are fighting the case in its substance."

He said it was unlikely that the court would decide to dissolve a political party simply out of misusing the EC contribution fund, saying that the EC could demand the return of such fund in case it was not used as stated by the party.

He said it seemed the EC was "under pressure" in filing the case against the Democrats.

In 2007 and 2008, the Constitution Court ruled to dissolve Thai Rak Thai Party of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and then its successor People's Power Party. The current Puea Thai Party is the third party formed by associates of Thaksin since Thai Rak Thai.

Apart from Abhisit, three other senior Democrat members, including Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga, also testified as its final defense witnesses Monday. The court now requires the Democrats to submit its written closing statement within 30 days and sets Nov. 29 as the day to hear its closing statement.

The alleged misuse of 29-million-baht fund is one of the two lawsuits the EC has filed against the Democrat Party. The Constitution Court has not yet decided whether it will hear the second case, in which the party was accused of failing to disclose, as required by law, that it received 258 million baht (8.63 million U.S. dollars) from TPI Polene, a cement producer listed on the Thai stock market.

A verdict by the court in finding the Democrats guilty of the TPI Polene case could also bring down the current government and ban Abhisit from politics for five years.

Source: Xinhua


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