A Constitutional Court is expected make a ruling on a protector of the junta-sponsored constitution this Wednesday. Paiboon Nititawan is the MP and legal expert of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party. Paiboon is also the deputy leader of the Palang Pracharath Party. He is also the legal advisor to deputy PM General Prawit Wangsuwan, who is the party leader. Now, his political future is now under consideration, with major repercussions for Thailand expected if he is to lose his position.
After the March 2019 election, Paiboon asked the Election Commission to dissolve the People Reform Party; his own political party of which he was the single MP. But, just 3 days after its dissolution, he joined the ruling Palang Pracharath Party.
Last November, the Constitutional Court was asked to rule on the legality of this move, after around 60 MP’s petitioned House Speaker Chuan Lekpai to have it reviewed. There is a constitutional mandate that an MP cannot move from one party to another without first giving up their own seat, and then being reelected as a member of their new party. The petition explained that Paiboon was not on the list of Palang Pracharath Party candidates for the 2019 general election.
Former election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn believes that the legal question at hand is whether or not Paiboon was still the leader of his People Reform Party while it was being dissolved.
“If he is still legally the People Reform leader, the law bars him from joining Palang Pracharath.”
Additionally, the Political Party Act makes clear that a party leader must complete a full financial audit after their party has been dissolved. Paiboon needs to have proved that he has accounted for his previous party’s finances, if he was still the leader. But it has been over 2 years, and the Office of the Auditor General has not completed its review of the People Reform Party finances.
Somchai went on to say that in the case of normal party dissolutions, the Constitution gives MPs 60 days to find a new party. Paiboon’s case is a bit different than this, though, because he proposed the dissolution himself.
If the court rules against Paiboon, and determines that his MP status ended before he became a Palang Pracharath MP in 2019, he will have to return all payment and benefits received from the state. In his case, this would amount to around 10 million baht. But it will not affect his duties as an MP, such as voting in Parliament or sitting on committees. Somchai believes that the ruling on this case will have a lasting effect on Thai politics.
“The verdict will set a precedent for future cases. I believe the court will listen to all arguments and create an appropriate precedent.”
Experts agree that losing Paiboon would be a big blow to the ruling party. This is especially the case when it comes to legal matters, as he has been a staunch defender of the junta-backed constitution. This article was written after the coup in 2014, and allowed for coup leaders to hold on to power even after the general elections in 2019. Paiboon has also worked against amendments in parliament that were aimed to make Thailand more democratic.
Paiboon has been a member of parliament since 2008. He was responsible for orchestrating the downfall of caretaker PM Yingluck Shinawatra in 2014, and was also the first politician to openly support junta chief Prayut Chan-o-cha in the election after the coup.
SOURCE: Thai PBS World