For the past three years one of the most familiar faces at red-shirt rallies across Thailand has been that of United Front for Democracy (UDD) co-leader and former Pheu Thai Party (PTP) MP Jatuporn Prompan, now languishing in the Bangkok Remand Center and threatening to become the first real test of how clean the newly elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra will be.
While red-shirt supporters welcomed former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva fulfilling his promise to hold an early 2011 general election in Thailand, the dissolving of the Thai parliament also saw the removal of the parliamentary immunity veil that had prevented Mr Prompan from joining fellow UDD leaders in jail following the collapse of the red-shirt protest in Bangkok last year that saw 92 people killed.
Remanded in custody on charges of terrorism since the parliament was dissolved on May 12, 2011, Jatuporn has been the point man for deposed former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra at red-shirt rallies since the Abhisit-led Democratic government, which suffered a crushing defeat in last weekends Thailand 2011 general election, was sworn in on December 17, 2008 (See: Thainess, the economy & the 2011 Thailand general election)
Article 100 (3) of the 2007 Thailand Constitution, introduced by the military government which ousted fugitive former prime minister Thaksin in a 2006 putsch, states that any person being detained by a warrant of the court or by a lawful order on the election day is disenfranchised.
Further, according to the Political Parties Act, Jatuporn lost his party membership and simultaneously his qualification to contest the 2011 Thailand general election, as he was put in court-sanctioned custody weeks before it.
To be eligible to stand for parliament Thailand law states a candidate must have been a voter and on the electoral register for at least five-years prior to the election, with Thailand’s electoral law disenfranchising members of the Sangha; the Buddhist community of monks, nuns, novices, and laity prisoners, and those judged to be of unsound mind.
2011 Thailand general election
The question of Jatuporn’s eligibility, which will enable him to reclaim parliamentary immunity – essentially a get out of jail free card – is one that saw lawyers for the 45-year-old activist and politician rush to the Criminal Court last week seeking his temporary release in order vote in the 2011 Thailand general election.
The last-ditch bail application met with the same result as previous applications, with the Criminal Court rejecting it, stating the charges against Jatuporn were serious and there is sufficient reason to believe he could cause unrest in the country if allowed out of prison to vote.
Following the court’s ruling Election Commission (EC) commissioner, Sodsri Satayatum said that if Jatuporn did not cast his vote in the 2011 Thailand general election he would be considered lacking in qualifications to be an MP.
Thailand electoral commission backflip
Yesterday in a total back-flip Ms Satayatum said the EC has no mandate to rule on a candidates eligibility and instead will seek a judicial review on the matter by the Constitutional Court (CC) and in the meantime endorsed him. (See: Thainess, the economy & the 2011 Thailand general election)
That Jatuporn was a candidate and held in jail simultaneously is sure to be a vexing question for Thailand’s CC to ponder, as up until the 2011 Thailand general election Jatuporn had voted in previous elections and was duly registered to vote and therefore stand as a candidate for the 2011 Thailand general election.
In the recent past the CC has not been kind to what is now known as PTP, formerly the People’s Power Party (PPP), ruling against then prime minister Samak Sundarave, before dissolving the party and the government of Sundarave’s successor, former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, banning him and party executives from politics for five years, paving the way for the Democrat Party to seize power through a vote of the parliament. (See: Thainess…)
After sheltering behind his parliamentary immunity to avoid joining fellow red-shirt leaders in prison following last year’s Bangkok political protests, that Jatuporn, who was so instrumental in coordinating the red-shirt movement which led to PTP’s landslide victory in the 2011 Thailand general election remains in jail will test the credibility of the yet to be sworn in government of Prime Minister-designate, Yingluck Shinawatra.
Thailand’s multicolor-shirts return
Depending on the exact Thai wording of the relevant Acts one possible scenario is that Jatuporn will be found to be eligible to serve as an MP for the new government’s term resulting from the 2011 Thailand general election, but ineligible to stand as a candidate in the next Thailand general election.
With Thailand’s new government yet to be sworn in the country’s so called “multicolor-shirts” have announced a protest against the incoming government on July 12 at the country’s National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).
Leader of the Network of Citizen Volunteers Protecting the Land, gynecologist Tul Sitthisomwong, largely formed from the same yellow-shirt movement that closed Bangkok airports in 2008, want the regulatory body to investigate Yingluck for allegedly concealing assets belonging to her fugitive brother, Thaksin.
How the new government, which came to power on promises of equal opportunity, freedom of speech, and transparency, along with institutions such as the CC and Criminal Court continue to rule will be monitored closely by human rights and civil liberty groups, with the often scene face of Jatuporn Prompan certain to be one of its first controversies.
Red-shirt leaders Natthawut Saikua, Dr. Weng Tojirakarn, Korkaew Pikulthong, and Wiphuthalaeng Pattanaphumthai were also declared successful candidates in the 2011 Thailand general election and will be protected from returning to jail during the term of the incoming government by the Thailand parliamentary immunity laws.
Photos John Le Fevre
He has spent extensive periods of time working in Africa and throughout Southeast Asia, with stints in the Middle East, the USA, and England.
He has covered major world events including Operation Desert Shield/ Storm, the 1991 pillage in Zaire, the 1994 Rwanda genocide, the 1999 East Timor independence unrest, the 2004 Asian tsunami, and the 2009, 2010, and 2014 Bangkok political protests.
In 1995 he was a Walkley Award finalist, the highest awards in Australian journalism, for his coverage of the 1995 Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) Ebola outbreak.
Most recently he was the Thailand editor/ managing editor of AEC News Today . Prior to that he was the deputy editor and Thailand and Greater Mekong Sub-region editor for The Establishment Post, predecessor of Asean Today.
In the mid-80s and early 90s he owned JLF Promotions, the largest above and below the line marketing and PR firm servicing the high-technology industry in Australia. It was sold in 1995.
Opinions and views expressed on this site are those of the author’s only. Read more at About me
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