Asia-Pacific

Thai court dismisses governing party funding case

Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva at the constitutional court, Bangkok 29 Nov 2010
Image caption Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had faced the threat of being banned from politics

The Constitutional Court in Thailand has dismissed a case against the governing Democrat Party after hearing closing arguments from both sides.

The Election Commission had accused the Democrats of misusing election funds in 2005.

If found guilty, the party could have faced dissolution and the prime minister could have lost his job.

But the court's decision to spare the Democrats may inflame the government's political opponents.

The judges in effect threw the case out on a legal technicality.

The petition, they said, was not filed by the prosecution properly within the specified time frame and therefore was not legal.

But if that is true, why did the court agree to hear the case at all and spend three months listening to arguments?

Protests

The court was already under scrutiny after videos were posted on the internet showing a court official and some judges meeting a member of the accused Democrat Party while proceedings were in progress.

Whatever the legal basis of today's decision, it will almost certainly be seized on by the opposition as evidence of double standards in the judicial system.

Two political parties allied to the former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, have been forced to disband in recent years after being found guilty of electoral fraud.

Those decisions led, ultimately, to current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva coming to power via a parliamentary vote in 2008.

Anti-government protesters have tried ever since to force Mr Abhisit from power, leading to violence earlier this year in which more than 90 people were killed.