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EC looks into Thai PM’s alleged charter violation


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September 30, 2008

Thailand Political Stalemate:
EC looks into Thai PM’s alleged charter violation

Thailand's Election Commission opened an investigation Monday into whether new Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat should resign for violating the constitution, less than a month after a similar process ousted his predecessor, the Associated Press reported.

"I have no worries at all," Somchai told reporters, adding that he had done nothing wrong and would defend himself in court if asked to.

The comments came shortly after the Election Commission said it would investigate whether Somchai had violated the constitution by holding shares in Thailand's CS LoxInfo PCL, an Internet service provider that is a contract partner of CAT Telecom, a state-owned telecommunications service provider.

The constitution bars members of Parliament from holding shares in companies that do business with state enterprises.

If found guilty, Somchai would be disqualified as a member of Parliament and therefore no longer be allowed to serve as prime minister.

Election Commission spokesman Ruangrote Jomsueb said a subcommittee would be appointed to investigate the matter and if it feels the case should be pursued will forward its findings to the Constitutional Court. He said subcommittee probe's generally take about 30 days.
The complaint was brought by Senator Ruangkrai Leekijwattana, who also filed the complaint to the Election Commission that brought down previous Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej.

Samak was ousted September 9, when the Constitutional Court ruled he had violated the constitution by accepting pay to host TV cooking shows while in office. The ruling came amid a tense political crisis in Thailand, with anti-government protesters occupying the prime minister's office compound calling for Samak’s resignation.

Samak had formed a government in February after his People Power Party (PPP) -- which ran on a platform loyal to ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra -- won elections in December, the first since the September 2006 coup, AFP said in a related report.

Court decisions, however, have plagued the party, with four senior PPP officials including Samak forced out of office by the courts.

The PPP itself is facing dissolution over claims that some of its members were involved in electoral fraud, threatening further political instability in a country that has been wracked by protests and turmoil since early 2006.

Somchai was elected as Samak's replacement on September 17, and his new Cabinet was formally sworn in by the king last week.

One of its first challenges will be to end the occupation of the main government compound by the so-called People's Alliance for Democracy, which accuses the PPP of being too close to Thaksin and trying to amend the charter.

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