Thai politician wants to amend graft law

BANGKOK, Reuters

A Thai politician said on Wednesday he wanted to grant an amnesty to political leaders accused of graft, in a move designed to allow Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to avoid a lengthy legal battle.

The Constitutional Court is deliberating whether to uphold a ruling by the National Counter Corruption Commission that Thaksin deliberately concealed some of his assets when he was a Cabinet minister in the late ’90s.

If the court upholds the ruling, Thaksin would be banned from politics for five years and removed from office.

Thaksin denies wrongdoing and says any omissions in his asset statements were merely an oversight.

Veera Musigapong, a founder of the New Aspiration Party, a coalition partner of Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) Party, told a radio show on Wednesday he was rallying public support for a law which would cancel NCCC indictments against politicians.

Under the constitution, parliament has to consider a request by voters to change the law if the request is backed by a petition signed by 50,000 eligible voters.

“People have voted for Thai Rak Thai and Thaksin to solve their problems … but he can’t fully concentrate on his work due to worries (over the ruling),” Veera said.

“We should free him from all distractions and let him work at 100 percent capacity to fulfill his campaign pledges.”

Thai Rak Thai won Thailand’s January general election by a landslide in spite of the NCCC indictment, which was issued in December.

“Thaksin’s problem was an oversight, he did nothing wrong and a majority of people still voted for him,” Veera said.

Veera, a veteran politician who now chairs the state railway firm’s board, said his plan had won support from politicians and he expected to gather as many as half a million signatures in support of it.

Veera said Thaksin, who is paying an official visit to Vietnam, knew nothing about his campaign.

“I did not tell the prime minister about this. I don’t want him to be disturbed by anything during his trip,” he said.

Sanoh Thienthong, head of a powerful faction in Thai Rak Thai, said his party was ready to support the proposal if it was submitted to parliament.

“If the prime minister had to go in a short while, the people would lose hope,” he said.

“If they submit (the proposal), we will support it.”

But several senators said they would vote against the draft law if it was passed by the lower house of parliament, which is controlled by Thai Rak Thai.

“People voted for the Thai Rak Thai to run the country because they liked its policies. There is more than one person in the party, not just Thaksin, to continue the work (if Thaksin had to step down),” said Senator Thongbai Thongpao.