Thai Rak Thai in Disbelief as Party Dissolved

BANGKOK ~ Disbelief, tears and bravado greeted the announcement on Wednesday that top judges had dissolved Thai Rak Thai, the twice-elected party founded by ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Chaturon Chaisang, Thai Rak Thai (TRT) leader, branded the verdict “totally unexpected,” but urged the party’s estimated 14 million supporters to stay calm for the sake of stability in the kingdom.

“Even if we don’t agree with the ruling, I ask all Thai Rak Thai members not to protest or oppose the ruling,” Chaturon said after emerging from the court following almost six hours of judgment.

“I plea to all of the people across the country to remain calm and exercise your thoughts to solve the problem. As long as you still like Thai Rak Thai policies, we will go ahead together.”

The Constitutional Tribunal, appointed by the junta that overthrew Thaksin in a coup last September, dissolved TRT after finding the party guilty of breaching voting regulations during snap elections in April 2006.

The nine judges also banned senior party members including Thaksin and Chaturon from politics for five years. Just hours earlier, the tribunal had cleared TRT opponents the Democrat Party of similar charges.

“We have not received justice,” said Chaturon, who had earlier sat stony-faced at the court.

“The verdict was based on the thought that anyone who seeks the power is right, even if the power came from the gun … we (are) under the dictator’s rule.”

His speech roused defiant cheers at the party headquarters, but the 500 TRT supporters were clearly upset by the verdict, with most of them – including the party executives – close to tears or openly weeping.

“We are really disappointed by the verdict. We had hope left, but now there is proof there is no mercy for us,” said Sukhon Nothayos, 47, who works for a charitable foundation in Bangkok.

“Thailand has no democracy anymore. The power of the people no longer exists, but we will continue to fight to bring back democracy for the country,” she said as she clutched a bunch of flowers.

As the night wore on, some supporters headed home, but others stayed and took to the stage, singing a song in honor of their former leader Thaksin, who was said to be “disappointed” by the verdict, according to a pro-Thaksin website.

In sharp contrast, cheers and back-slapping erupted at the Democrat Party headquarters earlier as news broke that Thailand’s oldest political party had escaped dissolution after being cleared of fraud.

“I want today to be the drawing to an end of all worries,” said Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of the 61-year-old party, as beaming supporters mingled around him.

“Tomorrow (Thursday) we will have a more important mission, that is to swiftly restore democratic rule,” he said at the party’s Bangkok base.

On Thursday, the country’s army chief said Thailand would maintain a nationwide security clampdown indefinitely following the dissolution of TRT.

Sonthi Boonyaratglin, the general who led a coup last September that ousted Thaksin, also said authorities were monitoring some politicians linked to the ex-premier, as well as “hardcore” Thaksin loyalists who might cause trouble.

“Security measures have been stepped up since last night and will gradually be increased,” he told AFP.

“The measures will be in place for a long time.”

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