Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Petitions lodged in bid to impeach Thai government lawmakers

The Cambodia Herald, November 19, 2013

Bangkok (The NAtion/ ANN) -- The embattled Yingluck Shinawatra government suffered another blow yesterday when an impeachment process was launched against its MPs and coalition lawmakers who jointly passed the final reading of the controversial amnesty bill.

Somkiat Homla-or, president of the Business Club for Democracy, and the opposition party lodged separate petitions to seek impeachment of 310 MPs from the ruling Pheu Thai Party and its allies. They were supported by signatures collected from 23,000 people against the bill, which were submitted to Senate Speaker Nikom Wairatpanij to start the impeachment process.

Nikom said he would check the accuracy of the signatures before sending them to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).

"I will probably combine the signatures accumulated by the people's anti-amnesty bill group with signatures gathered at the Democrat-led protest, before sending the list to the NACC," Nikom said.

Somkiat said the Business Club would not join the Democrats' rally, as the club's mission was not to bring down the government.

Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday approved the preface and Article 1 of the Bt2-trillion borrowing bill, which is a major priority of the Yingluck government. Further consideration of a key condition, stated in Article 6, that leftover funds not be returned to the government coffers, is still pending.

The preface was passed by a vote of 74 to 43, with two abstentions, while one vote was not cast. Article 1, which stipulates the title of the bill, passed by a vote of 75 to 35, with four abstentions. Another key condition in Article 2 - concerning whether the 18-article law, if approved, should take effect as soon as it is passed, or in 90 days’ time - was still being discussed at press time yesterday evening.

Also yesterday, former Democrat MP Suthep Thaugsuban, who heads the anti-government rally at Democracy Monument, initiated a separate process to impeach the 310 MPs.

Suthep submitted a petition to the Senate Speaker, stating his intention to invoke Article 270 of the Constitution to initiate the impeachment process.

He said he would have at least 20,000 signatures to back the impeachment request by early tomorrow.

Suthep started gathering the signatures on Saturday.

Nikom said Suthep had 180 days to gather 20,000 signatures of eligible voters after submitting the petition yesterday.

Once the signatures were received, he would get officials to verify them before passing the petition to the National Anti-Corruption Commission for an investigation, Nikom said.

If the NACC finds grounds to suspect wrongdoing by the 310 MPs, it could refer the matter back to the Senate and it would require three fifths of senators, or 90 votes, to impeach the MPs.

Aside from the slow process of signature verification, which is a requirement for impeachment, no political office-holder has ever been impeached to date, despite campaigns against them and processes completed in the House or Senate.

A high-ranking Democrat Party source, who asked not to be named, said they expected to get at least one million signatures by next Sunday and would then step up the Suthep-led rally to oust the government, claiming the support given by one million people via their signatures would give strength to their campaign.

Another Democrat source said anti-government momentum was increasing because, in addition to the blanket amnesty, people also opposed widespread corruption under the Yingluck government. If the government or House Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont blocked the opposition from a possible censure debate, people would see greater legitamacy in their rally and come out and expand the protest.

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