11 July 2024

A former election candidate, for the opposition Pheu Thai Party, has threatened to sue the Election Commission (EC) after the Supreme Court’s Division for Election Cases dismissed the EC’s petition to revoke the candidate’s election rights and seek compensation for the expense of holding the resulting by-election.

The court overruled the EC’s decision, which found Suraphol Kiatchaiyakorn, a 2019 candidate in Constituency 8 of Chiang Mai province, at fault for vote buying, after he made a donation of 2,000 baht to a senior monk during the campaign.

As a result of the EC’s decision, Suraphol, who won the election in Constituency 8 with more than 50,000 votes, was disqualified and stripped of his election rights for a year, pending a final ruling from the Supreme Court. A by-election was then held and Srinuan Boonlue, of the now defunct Future Forward Party, was elected.  She later quit to join the Bhumjaithai Party.

Suraphol said that he was delighted at the Supreme Court’s ruling, adding that this was the first vote buying case in which the EC had been defeated by an MP.

His lawyer, Pokpong Klabvisit, said he would wait for a clear response from the EC about how it will deal with the 50,000 plus votes received by Suraphol. Initially, however, he said he will sue the EC, demanding 70 million baht in compensation for the loss of the opportunity to perform his duty as an MP.

Pheu Thai Party’s acting leader, Chusak Sirinil, said that he has raised objections several times about the semi-judicial powers granted to the EC by the Constitution and the Election Act. The powers enable the EC to issue an “Orange Card” or to revoke the election rights of a candidate suspected of vote buying or other election cheating, pending a final decision by a court.

Since the House seat, which was won by Suraphol, has already been taken by a candidate who won the by-election, Chusak said he doesn’t know how the EC will deal with the matter.

Former election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said, in his Facebook post today, that the Supreme Court’s ruling will not have any effect on the results of the by-election, adding, however, that Suraphol has the right to contest future elections and to demand compensation from the EC.

Meanwhile, the EC says it had done its job properly and used its discretion, in compliance with the Constitution, when it disqualified Suraphol’s.

The EC also said that its action is protected by law and it cannot be held accountable for criminal or civil liabilities.