Published on August 27, 2007
People Power Party leader Samak Sunda-ravej was warned yesterday claims he could become a "nominee" of former prime minister Thaksin Shina-watra could land him or his party in legal hot water.
The formerly small and little-known party is now viewed as the new home of former Thai Rak Thai members of Parlia-ment and Thaksin supporters.
Shortly after being named leader on Friday, Samak said he was unperturbed at being considered a Thaksin nominee and hinted he planned to avenge the deposed prime minister.
Many party figures, however, tried to explain later that Samak was not a proxy for the ousted leader.
Election Commission member Sodsri Satayathum said yesterday Samak had not committed any election offence.
However, she warned any further moves on the nominee issue could land him in legal trouble.
"If later he commits such an offence and people complain, we can investigate," she said.
Sodsri added that under the new Constitution, Samak's ac-tions could be viewed as a threat to the political system; an of-fence, if convicted, that carries a punishment of party dissolution.
She said the commission would ask Samak to explain reports he had accepted Bt1 billion from Thaksin to be his nominee. "I believe it is not hard to find evidence because politicians are fighting hard to win the next election. They will reveal what happens,'' she said.
Nurak Mapraneet, a member of the special committee drafting new organic laws for the election, has warned Samak's actions could be in violation of these when effective.
A special committee headed by Prasong Soonsiri is considering the organic laws.
According to Article 82 of the Political Parties Bill, executives of any party punished by dissolution are banned from involvement in politics.
"In the case of Samak, if it can be proved he is a nominee of Thaksin, Samak would be breaking the law," he said.
People Power spokesman Kuthep Saikrajang defended his leader. Samak was discussing nominees of foreign businesses in local companies, he said.
Samak attributed much growth in the economy to huge foreign direct investment.
In the past, foreign ownership of locally registered companies was limited to 25 per cent, compared with 49 per cent at present.
"Our party will continue the policies of Thai Rak Thai which benefited the people," he said.
"Thai Rak Thai party founder Thaksin established the changes in foreign ownership and, therefore, 'nominee' in this case is not Thaksin, but his policies," the spokesman explained.
He said the party knew which actions broke political-party laws and Samak would not commit political suicide.
He reiterated the party was not a "nominee of Thaksin or anyone".
Meanwhile, People Power rivals warned yesterday that Samak's announcement would create disharmony.
Suriyasai Katasila, secretary-general of the Popular Campaign for Democracy, said the veteran politician's comments suggested he aimed to restore Thaksin to power.
He said Samak should have announced a vision to solve national problems instead of declaring he would be a Thaksin puppet.
"It is a dangerous political comment and will create disharmony in the country again," he said.
Suriyasai said if political chaos returned, perhaps the People's Alliance for Democracy might reform in order to push Thai politics forward under the Constitution law.
The Democrat Party agreed with Suriyasai. Secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban said he could never have made an announcement like Samak about representing the former prime minister in carrying out political activities.
He said the Democrats could join a coalition with any political party with similar political ideologies and stands, but not the People Power Party.
He said the Democrats' ideology was vastly different to People Power's.
"We can be an opposition party forever but we won't follow those who have damaged the country," Suthep said.
Democrat spokesman Ong-art Klampaiboon yesterday said at a press conference it appeared from Samak's comments that the People Power Party leader wants to play aggressive politics, which is his hallmark.
Democrat deputy spokesman Sathit Pitutecha said the comments would only create more conflict.
Mahachon Party leader Sanan Kachonprasart said during the party's annual convention he was not concerned about Samak saying Thai Rak Thai had now become the People Power Party and it would be up to the people whether to vote for it.
"The people will judge in the election whether they want to see harmony or disharmony and which parties should be selected," he said.
He said his party would not join a coalition with People Power because it could not accept the ideas of the defunct Thai Rak Thai Party.
In a related development, former House speaker Uthai Pimchaichon said yesterday Samak's statement would help people decide which political camp they supported.
"I believe what he did was good for the people. They can use their judgement because Thaksin was part of the country's problems,'' he said.