The US State Department has raised concerned about changes in Thailand’s legal system, following charges filed against the leader of the party that won the most seats in a May 14 election.
Thailand’s parliament is set to hold a second vote on Wednesday to determine if Pita Limjaroenrat, the head of the progressive Move Forward party, can be appointed prime minister, Reuters reported yestarday.
A Senate established by the royalist military following a 2014 coup foiled an early vote for Pita, who wants to remove the military from politics and break commercial monopolies, among other measures.
Officials in the United States have spoken little about the post-election developments in Thailand, a longtime military ally in a region where Washington is concerned about China’s expanding influence.
When asked about the situation in Thailand during a normal press conference, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller stated that Washington does not have a preference conclusion in the Thai election, but supports a process that reflects the desire of the Thai people.
“We are closely monitoring post-election developments, including recent developments in the legal system, which are concerning,” Miller added.
The Thai Constitutional Court has accepted a case against Pita and Move Forward on a plan to amend a statute that prohibits insults to the royal family. The election commission has also suggested that the same court disqualify Pita for violating electoral rules by owning shares in a media company.
Concerns have been voiced that the court will disqualify Pita from office or dissolve Move Forward, as it did with the party’s predecessor Future Forward in 2020.
When asked to comment on those possibilities, Miller said he wouldn’t “speculate about how we might react to events that haven’t yet occurred,” although he did say recent occurrences were concerning.
Thailand’s Constitutional Court to decide
Meanwhile, according to a source, Thailand’s Constitutional Court will determine whether to hear a petition lodged last week by the Election Commission (EC) seeking a court judgement on whether Move Forward Party (MFP) leader Pita Limjaroenrat’s MP status is now regarded invalid on Wednesday.
A joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate will also be held to choose Thailand’s next prime minister.
Mr Pita did not receive enough votes to become Prime Minister in last week’s election. In a series of petitions filed with the EC, he is accused of being unqualified to run in the election because he had 42,000 shares in iTV Plc, which some claim is still in operation as a media firm.
Meanwhile, former election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn provided his own interpretation of what will happen next in Mr Pita’s claimed ineligibility issue on his Facebook page on Monday.
He anticipated the judges to meet Wednesday morning to decide whether to pursue the EC petition.
At the same time, parliament would meet to select who would be the country’s next prime minister, but would spend the first half of the day debating parliament’s Regulation No.41, which governs the submission of a repeat motion, according to Mr Somchai.
He was alluding to some senators’ assessment that nominating Mr Pita for a new prime ministerial vote constituted filing a repeat motion, which is banned by the regulation.
Mr Somchai expects the court to agree to hear the EC’s petition and suspend Mr Pita as an MP until the dispute is resolved by midday.
According to Mr Somchai, this means Mr Pita will be unable to serve as an MP but will remain the MFP’s sole prime ministerial candidate.
However, Jade Donavanik, a legal expert and former constitution drafter, said he did not expect the court to decide to remove Mr Pita as an MP immediately when it meets on Wednesday.
He stated that if the court decides to hear the matter, the judges will need time to consider the EC’s petition and material provided to the court before pronouncing on whether Mr Pita should be suspended.