In the 2019 national election, Surapol Kietchaiyakorn was a Pheu Thai Party candidate for District 8, Chiang Mai Province. He won the election with 52,165 votes.
However, the Election Commission (EC) disqualified him.
Before the election, Surapol put 2,000 baht into an envelope and donated it to a group of monks. Please note that monks are not eligible to vote. Nonetheless, the EC considered the donation an “irregularity.”
There’s an argument that the monks might be bribed to preach the sermon of “Vote Surapol” to the faithful.
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court acquitted Surapol of any wrongdoing.
But the damage is done.
With his disqualification, District 8 held another election. Srinual Boonlue won 75,891 votes, the largest in the entire country. Back then, she represented the now-dissolved Future Forward Party.
It was understood, supporters of Pheu Thai and Future Forward banded together to vote Srinual.
However, less than a year later, Srinual defected and joined the government coalition partner, Bhumjaitai Party, and became an avid defender of General Prayut Chan-o-cha.
But that’s not all.
Because the constitution imposed a complex electoral system, and the EC only had a funny calculator, Surapol’s disqualification allowed two party-list candidates to become MPs.
They are Palang Pracharat’s Watanya Wongopasi and Democrat’s Chitpas Kridakon.
The former is the wife of Chai Bunnag, the mogul behind the pro-government Nation Multimedia Group. The latter was the face of Suthep Thuagsuban’s People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), which obstructed the 2014 election and welcomed the military coup.
Whether by accident or by design, Surapol’s disqualification ended with General Prayut gaining three MPs. But definitely by design is the constitution that gives the EC’s power of the “orange card.”
The power is to disqualify election candidates that the EC “deemed” responsible for “irregularities.” No trial, no due process of law, not guilty verdict needed. Innocent before proven guilty is only for Hollywood movies. If the EC believes you’re cheating, the orange card is your fate.
Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, Surapol plans to sue the EC for 70 million baht in damage for power misuse.
Here’s the thing.
In Thailand, the EC and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) are considered “independent organizations” created to provide checks and balances on the government. (Unless it’s the Prayut Government.)
It’s a long shot that Surapol will win the lawsuit. But the immediate concern is if he wins, would the taxpayers be footing the bill? Perhaps not, if the court decides to point to individual commissioners and hold them accountable instead.
No matter how this plays out, the curious case of Surapol and the orange card is another example of Thai (in)justice, and how the system is designed to favor the power-that-be.
This is why the pro-democracy protestors want to change the constitution. This is also why the Prayut Government is against the change.