July 13, 2006

Thai court to hear cases against PM, opposition

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's Constitutional Court agreed
on Thursday to consider allegations of electoral abuse by Prime
Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's ruling party and the main
opposition party which could lead to their being disbanded.

Three minor parties caught up in political shenanigans
during April's general election -- which has since been
annulled -- will also come under the court's scrutiny.

"The Constitutional Court voted to hear the cases to
dissolve five political parties," Ura Wang-omklang, head of the
15-judge panel, told reporters. "The accused parties will have
to send their defense to the court within 15 days."

The opposition Democrats accuse Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai
(Thais Love Thais) of paying smaller parties to field
candidates in certain constituencies to prevent TRT hopefuls
from falling foul of minimum turn-out requirements in
uncontested seats.

The Election Commission says the Democrats paid members of
the smaller parties to make the allegations against TRT, and
also accuses Thailand's oldest party of encouraging voters to
spoil their ballots.

The Commission itself is accused of favoring Thaksin's
party, and has been taken to court accused of mishandling the

After annulling the April 2 poll, which failed to produce a
result due to a Democrat boycott, the courts have come under
pressure to navigate a way out of a deadlock stemming
ultimately from an anti-corruption street campaign against

However, the judges have made little headway amid a flurry
of lawsuits from all sides. A new election has been penciled in
for October 15, but the opposition and many political analysts
think it will have to be pushed back.

Amid an increasingly fractious political climate, the
National Intelligence Agency has warned of a possible
assassination plot against Thaksin and tightened security
around him and his family.

"I've been informed but there is nothing to worry about,"
Thaksin told reporters.