A Constitutional Court in Thailand banned the Thai Rak Thai political party and barred over one hundred of its leaders from politics for five years.
Founded by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai Rak Thai is the country’s most popular political party. The party aggressively courted poor rural voters and won mandated elections in 2001 and 2005.
According to the New York Times, the court found the party guilty of election fraud, paying small parties to run against it in the April 2006 election to satisfy a requirement for minimum participation. The Court acquitted the Thai Rak Thai’s rival, the Democrat Party, which ruled the kingdom before the Thai Rak Thai’s election in 2001. The Democrat Party faced similar charges of election fraud.
The rulings have been described as one of three major hurdles for the government in its attempt to steer the country back to democracy. Thai Rak Thai supporters, however, may pose strong opposition to these rulings and make these hurdles difficult to overcome. Analysts say this dissolution of Thailand’s most popular party would undermine the military’s claim to restore democracy.
Demonstrators have called for an end to the current military leadership that came to power after a coup that ousted the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, prior to an election that his Thai Rak Thai party was expected to win. Demonstrators criticize the Court as a military appointed tribunal. Shinawatra is now living in self-imposed exile.
For more information, please see:
BBC News – Thaksin Supporters Rally Over Ban – 31 May 2007
Channel News Asia – Thai Security Clampdown Indefinite: Coup Leader – 31 May 2007
FT – Thaksin’s ban from politics raises doubts on democracy – 31 May 2007
Channel News Asia – Thaksin Ban Reshapes Thailand Politics – 31 May 2007
BBC News – Thai ex-PM’s Party Ban ‘Unfair’ – 31 May 2007
The New York Times – Thai Court Disbands Former Prime Minister’s Political Party – 31 May 2007