The Nation, August 8, 2001
Judges agree PM had 'no intention'
The Nation - After two days' legal tug-of-war, Constitution Court judges yesterday agreed that Prime Minister Thaksin Shiniwatra should be acquitted of graft charges for the sole reason that he did not intend to conceal his assets.
The 15 judges, who on Friday cleared the PM Of intentionally concealing assets in a 1997 statutory declaration with an 8-7 vote, yesterday broke a deadlock. They had until then differed about why Thaksin should be acquitted.
Until yesterday four of the eight majority judges insisted Article 295 of the Constitution, requiring politicians to declare their assets, could not be applied to Thaksin because he had lost his job before the deadline to declare his assets. The remaining majority judges ruled that although Article 295 did apply to Thaksin they had found insufficient evidence to prove he had deliberately concealed his assets.
The majority judges sat down Monday to hammer out a formal written verdict. On the first day of debate the four judges who believed Article 295 did not apply to Thaksin appeared adamant, and a deadlock ensured. Yesterday the judges -- Kramol Thongdhamachart, Phan Chanpan, Sak Techachan and Jumpol na Songkhla -- reversed their stand and agreed to allow the verdict on the grounds of "absence of intention."
Their about-face means the final verdict is principally based on the opinions of four judges, Jun Atirek, Suchinda Yongsunthorn, Anan Ketwong, and Preecha Chalermvanich. In justifying this some of the judges said their earlier ruling in relation to Article 295 might lead to confusion because there was no clear precedent that would relieve a politician of his or her requirement to file an assets statement.
Judge Anan said he expected the written verdict to be publicly released next week. Judge Kramol said he hoped the written verdict incorporated his ruling on Article 295 as a supporting argument for Thaksin's acquittal. "I still insist that Thaksin was not obligated to file his asset statement as per Article 295, because the spirit of this provision intends scrutiny only of the wealth of those in office," he said.