Senate speaker gets suspended jail term for granting himself a pay increase
The Criminal Court Wednesday found Senate Speaker Thiradet Meepian, another former ombudsman and former secretary-general of the Office of Ombudsmen guilty of malfeasance in issuing a regulation to grant themselves a pay increase.
Thiradet and Poolsup Piya-anant, another former ombudsman, were given two-year suspended sentences while Pramote Chotemongkol, former secretary-general of the Office of Ombudsmen, was given a one-year-and-four-month suspended jail term.
The court found the three guilty of collaborating to issue a regulation to give themselves a pay increase of Bt20,000 a month without authority. The court ruled that the pay increase needed to be approved by the Cabinet and enacted as a law by Parliament.
The crime was committed between July 29 and September 30, 2004, the court was told.
The court was told that when Thiradet and Poolsup were ombudsmen, Pramote assisted them in issuing the regulation to give themselves a fixed meeting allowance of Bt20,000 a month. Pramote used a regulation on meeting allowances for the Constitution Court as a guideline to draft the regulation for the Office of Ombudsmen.
The regulation was issued on July 30, 2004 with a retroactive dating to July 1, 2004. The three had received the Bt20,000 monthly allowance for three months before returning the money after the National Anti-Corruption Commission started a malfeasance probe against them.
The Criminal Court ruled that since the Bt20,000 was paid in a fixed amount on the monthly basis, it had to be regarded as a part of the salary, which the three had no authority to approve for themselves.
Their jail terms were suspended on the grounds that they have no criminal record.
Following the ruling, Deputy Senate Speaker Nikom Waiyaratphanit said Thiradet was disqualified as Senate speaker and the new one will be elected on August 6.
Nikom has become acting Senate speaker pending the election.
Nikom said Article 124 (4) states that the Senate speaker must be disqualified once given a jail term, regardless of whether imprisonment is suspended or not.