Thai "yellow shirts" seek to disband pro-Thaksin party

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2011 2:48 PM
Thai "yellow shirts" seek to disband pro-Thaksin party

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's "yellow shirts" protest movement targeted the political opposition on Tuesday over its links to ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, urging the nation's election watchdog to disband the party as it races ahead in opinion polls. It was unclear whether the Election Commission (EC) would take any action following the complaint by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which held mass protests in 2006 and 2008 that undermined two governments led or backed by Thaksin, who is banned from politics and lives in exile to evade a two-year prison sentence for corruption.

The complaint comes as the Puea Thai Party led by Thaksin's charismatic 44-year-old sister Yingluck Shinawatra gathers momentum ahead of the July 3 election, garnering support with promises of a revival of her brother's populist policies.

PAD spokesman Parnthep Pourpongpan said Puea Thai should be dissolved for breaching rules that prohibit convicted or disqualified politicians from participating in politics.

The move adds to uncertainty in a country caught up in a five-year spiral of political conflict pitting Thaksin's mostly rural and urban working class supporters against generals, royalists and conservative elites deeply opposed to him.

Most independent analysts expect complications in the formation of the next government and say street protests or legal action could be launched by either side to contest the outcome of the election.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a political analyst at Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies suggested the PAD's complaint was part of a broader strategy by Thaksin's powerful opponents to stifle Puea Thai and avert the tycoon's planned return from exile without serving jail time.

"This is part of a trend of pre-emptive measures against Puea Thai but right now, I don't think the yellow shirts have the capacity to carry this through," he said.

"They are living in fear of Puea Thai winning and need to do something. They've come up with these different attacks but I believe rather than discredit Puea Thai, it could actually win them more votes."

The PAD's move coincided with a separate complaint filed with police by two anti-Thaksin royalists who accuse Yingluck of perjury in testimony she gave during an assets concealment case involving her brother after he was overthrown in a 2006 military coup.

The Department of Special Investigation said it would take about a month to study the complaint against Yingluck while the EC said it would assess whether there was grounds for legal action against Puea Thai.

Previous dissolution cases lodged by the EC have taken several months to process.

Parnthep said his petition included more than 10 documents showing Thaksin had interfered with Thai politics through Puea Thai.

Thaksin has made no secret of his ties to the party, which has used the slogan "Thaksin thinks, Puea Thai acts" to re-energize the billionaire's supporters, who helped him win two election landslides in 2001 and 2005.

(Reporting Chalathip Thirasoonthrakul and Vithoon Amorn; Editing by Martin petty and Alex Richardson)