Samak could be voted back to office today

September 10, 2008 at 1:39 am Leave a comment

The Prime Minister had broken a conflict-of-interest law by accepting payment for hosting Tasting And Complaining and All Set At 6am. — PHOTO: IMPORTFOOD.COM

Samak found guilty

Sep 10, 2008
By Nirmal Ghosh, Thailand Correspondent
The Straits Times (Singapore)

Court orders him to quit as PM for violating conflict-of-interest law

BANGKOK: A court yesterday ordered Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to step down for whipping up recipes on his TV cooking shows.

But his supporters vowed to put him back in office through a vote in Parliament in a move that could deepen Thailand’s political crisis.

The judgment, broadcast live on television and radio, was greeted with wild cheers from Mr Samak’s opponents who have occupied his office compound since Aug 26 to demand his resignation. Some protesters wept.

In a ruling that had been expected, the Constitutional Court returned a unanimous 9-0 verdict that the Prime Minister had broken a conflict-of-interest law by accepting payment for hosting Tasting And Complaining and All Set At 6am.

The case had been brought against him by a group of senators and Election Commission members.

Mr Samak, a self-proclaimed foodie, was the star of Tasting And Complaining for seven years before becoming prime minister earlier this year.

Evidence showed that he continued to host the two shows after he assumed office in February and had received allowances such as petrol expenses which could be construed as income, the judges said.

The Thai Constitution prohibits private employment while in office.

Judge Chat Chonlaworn, the head of the nine-judge panel, told the court: ‘His employment at the company can be considered an employment.’

He said that Mr Samak gave ‘conflicting testimony’ and that there was an attempt to fabricate evidence ‘to hide his actions’.

Mr Samak will resign but his name will be proposed again when Parliament convenes to elect another premier, possibly as early as today – and he will be voted back into the job. All day yesterday, political parties were in intense discussions over post-judgment strategy.

But this will likely further inflame his critics, led by the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

One option is that another man will be proposed as prime minister. Former premier and Chart Thai leader Banharn Silapa-archa, and deputy prime ministers Somchai Wongsawat and Surapong Suebwonglee are three possibilities.

But Mr Banharn yesterday seemed to rule himself out, saying he would not like to be prime minister in such a politically charged atmosphere.

Another option is to dissolve the House and call a fresh election. This would have the effect of outflanking the PAD, which continues to occupy Government House in Bangkok, demanding that Mr Samak resign.

Mr Kuthep Saikrajang, spokesman for Mr Samak’s People Power Party (PPP), said its MPs were in favour of re-nominating Mr Samak for the premiership in Parliament.

But he added that the final decision would depend on Mr Samak as well as other parties in the ruling coalition.

The main opposition Democrat Party’s spokesman Ongard Klampaiboon said: ‘We are waiting to see what the PPP and the coalition parties do. But if Mr Samak comes back as prime minister it will make things worse. People will be more angry.’

Mr Samak has been facing strident and persistent calls to resign from the royalist, right-wing PAD. It accuses his government of corruption, acting as a proxy for former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, and harbouring politicians and advisers who as former communists are against the monarchy.

Mr Samak and his government deny the charges.

While PAD supporters camped at Government House applauded the court’s verdict, they showed no sign that they would end their protests.

‘Samak was ousted by the court, but there is no guarantee he will not return in the next few days,’ PAD spokesman Suriyasai Katasila told journalists.

‘So our protest will continue for the time being.’

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Entry filed under: Politics, Preah Vihear Issue. Tags: , , .

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