Coup-ousted Thai leaders petition UN for restoration of pol rights

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Bangkok, Nov 23 (UNI) Senior members of ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's former party have appealed to the United Nations to protect their civil rights in the upcoming national elections.

More than 100 members of the former ruling Thai Rak Thai party that was dissolved in a controversial judicial ruling earlier this year were also banned from all political activity for five years.

''Though the voting rights of Thai Rak Thai Party executive members have been suspended, they remain citizens and human beings,'' the former party leaders said in a petition submitted to the chief of the Bangkok-based regional UN human rights office.

Campaigning is under way for the December 23 parliamentary elections to restore democracy after the September 19 2006 coup d'etat and members of the former ruling party ousted in the coup have regrouped under a new name.

According to opinion polls, the newly formed People's Power Party backed by Mr Thaksin is tipped to win the largest number of seats in Parliament.

However, the national Election Commission has further restricted political activity by the 111 executives of the former ruling party.

''At the very least, their basic civil and human rights should be respected and they should be treated by the Election Commission as equals, not inferior citizens,'' said the petition submitted yesterday to the UN.

The petition accused the ruling military regime of arm twisting the national Election Commission in order to keep the Mr Thaksin-backed party from winning the election.

However, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont denied the government was meddling in the poll process and said the Election Commission's directives to the former ruling party members were based on the Constitution Tribunal ruling dissolving the Thai Rak Thai.

A section of media commentators have criticised the restrictions on the former Thai Rak Thai leaders, saying it was in violation of democratic principles.

''The issuance of Election Commission 'guidelines' for former Thai Rak Thai executives on how to act during the election campaign period adds to the concern whether every political party is accorded the fair treatment it is entitled to during the run-up to the poll,'' said the English language daily Bangkok Post in its lead editorial today.

''The importance of the upcoming election to the future of our democracy cannot be emphasised enough. The military must step back and allow the people and their elected representatives to rule this country as they see fit. Without a democratic government, our future as a nation and as a people will remain grim and uncertain,'' it added.

UNI

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