Parole for jailed election commissioners

Parole for jailed election commissioners

Parinya Nakchatri, left, and Wassana Permlarp (Bangkok Post file photo)

Former election commissioners Parinya Nakchatri and Wassana Permlarp were released on parole Tuesday evening after serving 18 months of a two-year prison sentence for facilitating electoral fraud.

Narat Sawetanant, director-general of the Corrections Department, said on Tuesday that Wassana and Parinya, both 76, were among 283 inmates whose early release had been approved by the parole committee chaired by Withaya Suriyawong, deputy permanent secretary for justice.

Both former commissioners were sentenced last year to two years imprisonment for illegally favouring a political party, he said. They were at the Bangkok Remand Prison.

Pol Col Narat said 4,506 inmates sought parole in fiscal 2017 and 58% of those were approved.

The imprisonment of Wassana and Parinya resulted from a lawsuit filed by Suthep Thaugsuban, former secretary-general of the Democrat Party, against them and another EC member, the late Veerachai Naewboonnian, for neglect of duty in failing to expedite an investigation into a petition against the now defunct Thai Rak Thai Party.

Thai Rak Thai was accused of hiring the Pattana Chartthai and Paen Din Thai parties to field candidates in the House of Representatives election in 2006 to avoid having no competitors in several constituencies after the major opposition parties boycotted the polls.

If they had no rivals for the seat, the Thai Rak Thai candidates were required by law to receive at least 20% of the ballots of all eligible voters.

On Sept 15, 2006, a lower court sentenced the trio to two years in jail and stripped them of their electoral rights for 10 years. The Appeal Court upheld the sentence two years later. During the final appeal process in the Supreme Court, Veerachai died at the age of 71. 

The Supreme Court found the EC had to set up a subcommittee to investigate electoral fraud and speedily pass orders in cases where evidence was sound.

The subcommittee later indicated that executives of Thai Rak Thai and two other small parties were likely to have committed offences.

The Supreme Court said the subcommittee reported, citing reliable witnesses, the small parties’ members received money from then Thai Rak Thai executives Gen Thammarak Isarangkura na Ayudhaya, former defence minister, and ex-transport minister Pongsak Ruktapongpisal.

The court found the two commissioners then ordered an additional investigation into the case in areas linked to Thai Rak Thai. This was despite the subcommittee chairman Nam Yimyaem insisting there was no need for further investigation.

Wassana and Parinya invited Gen Thammarak and Mr Pongsak to testify to the new investigation subcommittee.

The new sub-panel upheld the previous subcommittee’s decision and forwarded its findings to the two commissioners, who later approved and sent the report to the Office of the Attorney-General for indictment. The approval was not given until after the election on April 2, 2006.

The court viewed the two commissioners’ action as helping Thai Rak Thai, which won the election.

The Constitutional Court later invalidated the House of Representatives election results and ordered a new round of voting.