Opponent of 2 Feb Poll To Prosecute Opponents of 2 Feb Poll

Police officers escort a woman away from a group of anti-government protesters who were besieging a polling station in Bueng Kum district, 26 January 2014

BANGKOK – The Election Commissioner who opposed the 2 February election said he is pursuing court cases against those who disrupted the snap poll.

Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, a senior member of Election Commission of Thailand (EC), told reporters yesterday that the EC is seeking 3 billion baht in damage fees from those individuals, who he did not identify by name.

The 2 February election was called by former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra after she dissolved parliament in December 2013 in an effort to mollify the anti-government protesters who sought to topple her administration.  

The protesters, led by the People's Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD), later blocked the 2 February poll and its advance voting session on 26 January by besieging poll stations and seizing ballot equipment.

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Anti-government protesters with the banner "Reform Before Election" in Prachuap Khiri Khan province, 23 January 2014.

In March, the Constitutional Court nullified the election on the grounds that  voting did not take place everywhere in the country on the same day due to the protesters' disruptions.

Yesterday, EC official Somchai said those responsible for the events that caused the invalidation of the 2 February poll will need to pay for the more than 3 billion baht Thai authorities spent on organising the doomed election. The lawsuit will be filed in January, Somchai said.

"We will study the verdict of the Constitutional Court that nullified the election to see the true cause of the verdict, who was responsible for it," Somchai told reporters. "When we have the name of the defendants, the five members of the EC will approve on the motion and forward the case to the public prosecutor."

Somchai said the goal of the lawsuit is to return the lost election budget to the state treasury. 

The Reluctant Election Commissioner

Somchai was one of many prominent opponents of the 2 February election. Despite the EC's role as the organiser of the poll, Somchai and other EC members repeatedly sided with anti-government protesters who called on the then-government to postpone the election indefinitely until peace and order was restored. 

After the Constitutional Court nullified the 2 February poll, the EC resisted the government's attempts to organise a fresh poll, claiming that it was not possible because of the anti-government protesters who vowed to block any election held before unspecified national reforms were implemented. 

At one point in April, the EC even allowed anti-government protesters to enter the hall where election talks were being held and hang banners bearing anti-election slogans. 

The second attempt at a snap poll, which was initially scheduled to take place on 20 July, never happened as the military seized power and dissolved the government on 22 May, ostensibly to prevent the anti-government protests from spiraling out of control.

Thailand's military rulers initially said elections will be held in October 2015 if "national reconciliation" has been achieved and the political climate is deemed stable. The timeline was later postponed to an unspecified point in 2016.

Somchai has supported the junta's decision to suspend elections in Thailand while wide-reaching reforms are pursued. He was quoted as telling a representative of the European Union (EU) in Thailand that "a good election has to produce moral people who are capable of running the country and contributing to society."

"I have given my perspective to the EU that they should understand the situation in Thailand," Mr. Somchai said in July. "I don't want them to look at elections as only rituals, or think that having an election means there's democracy … It's not that we don't care about democracy or elections, but we will only have an election when everything is ready."

Because of his perceived hostility to the Yingluck administration and the 2 February election, Somchai is one of the most despised figures among Redshirt activists.

The Redshirts' ire was raised even further when Somchai visited Scotland for 10 days in a trip funded by taxpayer money in September. 

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Photos of Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn visiting museums in Scotland

Somchai claimed the purpose of the trip was to observe and learn from the referendum on Scotland's independence from the United Kingdom.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Somchai said that any Redshirts who believe the EC was the true cause of the 2 February poll's invalidation can file their own lawsuit to the public prosecutor. 

When a reporter asked whether he thinks the EC should share some fault for the collapse of the 2 February poll, Somchai replied, "We only did our duties. We received the budget to organise the election, but there was obstacle."

He continued, "We only tried to push ahead with our work, so we don't have to be afraid of anything."

 

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