- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2006

BANGKOK — Thailand’s shaky government suffered a setback yesterday when the attorney general ruled that the prime minister’s party and the biggest opposition party committed election fraud and should be dissolved.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra — clinging to power through the past few months of anti-Thaksin street demonstrations, an election boycott and widespread condemnation by the country’s press — insisted his party was innocent.

The Constitution Court must decide whether it will take the case and whether the political parties should be dissolved if they are found to have violated laws forbidding parties from “subverting the democratic system, acquiring executive power by unconstitutional means” or threatening “national security, public order or ethics and morality.”

If convicted, the parties’ leaders and other top members could be blocked from holding party executive posts for five years.

Mr. Thaksin hopes to run in a national election on Oct. 15, despite complaints that he did not pay taxes on $1.8 billion in profit his family made in a multibillion-dollar telecommunications sale to Singapore.

The election date, however, could be postponed because of the court case.

The attorney general declared that Mr. Thaksin’s nationalistic Thai Rak Thai (“Thais Love Thais”) party, the opposition Democrat Party and three other tiny parties acted illegally during an April election, which was invalidated.

“Thailand’s attorney general filed election fraud charges before the Constitution Court on Thursday, asking it to dissolve the ruling Thai Rak Thai party and its main rival, the Democrat Party, over alleged election law violations in the April 2 snap poll nullified by the country’s top court,” the government’s Thai News Agency announced.

The threat to dissolve the parties is a major blow to this Southeast Asian nation’s attempts to achieve democracy after more than a dozen military coups, endless accusations of “vote buying” and other woes in the past decades.

The party leaders still could be candidates for parliament and run the government by switching parties, creating parties or acting as independents, which could mean Mr. Thaksin will remain prime minister.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej endorsed the courts in April as the best way to solve the escalating struggle for dominance between Mr. Thaksin and his opponents.

The attorney general’s office then blamed both the ruling party and the opposition, amid speculation that if only one party were deemed guilty, charges of bias might be voiced by the losers.

The case may drag on for months as it meanders through the Constitution Court. Likely solutions could include political banishment for some people, fines or other measures that fall short of dissolving the parties.

“The party has confidence in its innocence,” Mr. Thaksin said last week, shaken by the threat to his populist, pro-American party.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva also claimed innocence.

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