Thaksin escapes Constitutional Court scrutiny

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

In a move that has been greeted with dismay by some groups, Thailand's Constitutional Court has rejected a petition submitted by 28 of the country's senators. The petition levelled allegations against the Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, of having maintained influence over Shin Corporation and been involved in the decision to sell the family's remaining stake in the company to Temasek Holdings, the investment arm of the Singapore Government.

The court's decision to reject the petition seeking impeachment was reached following an 8-6 vote. The submitting senators were said not to have provided evidence documenting Thaksin's interest in Shin Corp. or how he was involved in the sale. This is despite a former judge from the Constitutional Court endorsing an opinion shared by some senators and academics that the court was bound by law and precedent to review the allegations.

The president of the Federation for Democracy, Weng Tojitrakarn expressed disappointment at the court's decision not to review the petition, stating that "It's the duty of the court to seek evidences". He pledged that his group would press for the resignation of the eight judges who supported the Prime Minister.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra

According to Weng an interview with the Prime Minister's son, Panthongtae Shinawatra, reveals Thaksin's involvement in the sale. Panthongtae is said to have claimed the sale was a matter for "puyai", which Weng interprets as meaning Thaksin.

This is not the first time that Thailand's beleaguered PM has faced judgement from the court, nor may it be the last. In 2001 the court acquitted Thaksin by an even closer 8-7 vote. The charge in that case was concealment of assets. A new petition being organised by students of Thammasat University calling for impeachment has reportedly reached 20,000 of the 50,000 required signatures.

Further controversy over the PM's family's involvement in Shin Corp. was revealed in a Thai News Agency report. According to the Secretary-General of the country's Securities and Exchange Commission the PM's son and daughter may face fines for failure to report their shareholding in Shin. Other issues relating to Shin Corp. are also under investigation by the SEC with collection of evidence and documentation expected to be complete within a week.

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