Political law blasted for bias, ambiguity

Critics question if it can apply to past cases

The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) approved the organic bill on criminal procedures for holders of political positions on Thursday but it must clarify exactly when the law can be applied retroactively, NLA member Wallop Tangkananurak said yesterday.

The bill has drawn criticism as cases prior to its implementation that led to indictments in the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions will fall within its jurisdiction.

If the statute of limitations in a case has not expired while a fugitive suspect is on the run, the aforementioned division can order a trial to proceed in absentia.

The bill, passed by the NLA in a unanimous vote this week, will be enacted once it receives royal endorsement.

But Mr Wallop said question marks hover over Section 67 of the bill, which states it will not affect cases that occurred before it was enacted.

The confusion stems from the use of vague wording that could either refer to cases that have already been deliberated in court or which are still going through the trial process, he said.

"This is very confusing," the lawmaker said.

The perceived ambiguity may be settled by a Constitutional Court ruling, Mr Wallop said, adding that the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) should work toward clarifying the matter.

Critics say the law has been designed for the specific purpose of targeting ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. There are currently six cases pending involving the former premier.

Red-shirt leader Weng Tojirakarn yesterday said no law should single out politicians in its enforcement. In his opinion, this bill may target not only Mr Thaksin but any politicians who support him.

Udom Rathamarit, a member of the CDC committee drafting the organic bill, said the law cannot be applied retroactively for cases that the court has already ruled on.

However, the criminal cases against Mr Thaksin that have been put on hold on account of his absence will proceed under the organic bill once it enters into effect, he said.

He insisted the bill conformed to the constitution in both content and drafting process.

"The bill doesn't discriminate against anyone. It's the court that decides who is right or wrong," Mr Udom said.

CDC deputy chairman Supoj Khamook said the bill was created in the interests of serving justice and it has similar counterparts in many countries including in French law.

Chavalit Chaiyasut, the former deputy secretary-general of the Pheu Thai Party, said he was unsure whether the bill contradicts the spirit or letter of the new constitution.

Deputy attorney-general Kemchai Chutiwong yesterday dismissed criticism that the bill creates a double standard in legal prosecution against politicians and other groups of people.

He said cases involving political post holders have far-reaching repercussions on the public.

As they tend not to occupy office for long periods the cases should proceed in a timely fashion, he added.

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