Supreme Court Absolves Pheu Thai MP Disqualified by EC

A woman votes in a by-election in Phitsanuk province on April 21, 2019.

BANGKOK — Former Pheu Thai MP Surapol Kiatchaiyakorn said on Wednesday he would sue election regulators for 70 million baht for stripping him of the seat in the Parliament on allegations of vote-buying – a charge dismissed by a court on Tuesday.

Surapol said he would pursue lawsuits against the Election Commission for damage to his reputation and the lost MP seat. The EC nullified Surapol’s victory at the poll in 2019 and accused him of buying the votes, though the Supreme Court’s Section on Political Office Holders found him not guilty of the charge in yesterday’s verdict. 

“I was an MP for eight times and I’m 79,” Surapol said in a phone interview. “I lost an opportunity to work as an MP, and I lost my reputation and honour. The Pheu Thai Party lost a seat as a result.” 

Read: Poll Observers Give ‘F’ Grade to Election Commission

He said the demand for 70 million baht in compensation is legitimate given the grievous damage to his career. 

“I should be able to explain to the court why it would be roughly 70 million baht,” Surapol said “We must take into account the loss of my good name, which is incalculable.”

Election Commission sec-gen Jarungvith Pumma said the commission was aware of Surapol’s threat to sue, and said the politician has the right to do so.

However, Jarungvith also said it is very unlikely that Surapol would ever get his MP seat back, since Article 225 of the Constitution considered decisions by the Election Commission final. 

Surapol’s electoral victory was nullified in 2019 when the Election Commission handed him an “orange card,” banning him from politics for a year and stripping him of the MP seat. The commissionaid Surapol gave monks at a temple in Chiang Mai 2,00 baht each in cash, which constituted vote buying. 

A by-election at the constituency subsequently took place, handing victory to the government coalition party, Phalang Pracharath.

But the Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that Surapol’s action could not be considered vote manipulation, since the politician was giving the money to make merits per his religious belief. 

Pheu Thai Party caretaker spokesman Chumsai Siriyapai said on the phone Wednesday that the party considers the case a personal matter for Surapol. “My understanding that it’s his affairs now,” Chumsai said.   

Former Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said if Surapol takes the case to the Criminal Court and the judges rule in favor of the plaintiff, it could result in jail terms for members of the Election Commission. 

Somchai said in the worst case scenario for the EC, the judges could find the seven commissioners guilty of abusing power, and force them to leave the positions. But there is no way under the charter for Surapol to win back his MP status. 

“Otherwise it would cause a lot of chaos,” he said.

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