News / Asia

Thai Election Commission Recommends Dissolution of Ruling Party

Decision, which the Constitutional Court must approve, says PM Abhisit Vejjajiva's Democrat Party guilty of misusing donations

Daniel Schearf

Thailand's election commission has said the ruling party of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva should be dissolved over allegations of illegal donations.  The decision was made amid growing pressure on the government after violent clashes between anti-government protesters and soldiers left 21 people dead.

The commission says the Democrat Party of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is guilty of misusing donations and should be disbanded.

The decision will first have to be endorsed by the Constitutional Court, which authorities say could take several days.

Democrat Party spokesman Buranaj Smutharaks says the party will fully cooperate with the due process of the law.

"We are confident that that ruling will not occur because we have always maintained that we have fully complied with all laws concerning the uses of funds during the election campaign," Smutharaks said.

The Democrat Party was accused of accepting a multi-million dollar donation in 2005.  Thai laws limit political donations to a few hundred thousand dollars a year.

Last week, anti-government protesters stormed into the election commission saying it was too slow in ruling on the case.

The commission's recommendation adds further pressure to the beleaguered prime minister.

At least 21 protesters, soldiers and a journalist were killed Saturday when his government ordered security forces to end a month-long anti-government demonstration.  The protesters, known as "red shirts," paraded some bodies of those killed through the capital on Monday.

They blame the soldiers for the deaths and are demanding Mr. Abhisit step down and call new elections.

In a national broadcast, the prime minister said a small group among the protesters was responsible for the violence.

He says they can see clearly that a group of people acted like terrorists and were among the group of democracy protesters.  He says the group wanted a big change in the government.

Mr. Abhisit said he is still willing to negotiate a solution with leaders of the protesters, which they have rejected.

The government has been under serious pressure to resign since March when tens of thousands of protesters poured into Bangkok.  The demonstrations turned to civil disobedience and lawlessness last week when protesters occupied a main commercial center and briefly broke into the parliament building and a satellite relay station.

The government declared an emergency and then tried, unsuccessfully, to clear some of the demonstrators, resulting in the deaths and injuries.

The "red shirts" are mainly from the countryside and say the government was brought to power by traditional elites in Bangkok, backed by the military rather than popular vote.

Many of the "red shirts" support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted by the military in 2006.  He lives in exile to avoid a prison sentence for a corruption conviction.

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