Ex-defence minister acquitted of poll fraud charges

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BANGKOK, Jan 7 – The Thai Appeals Court today acquitted former defence minister Thammarak Issarangkura na Ayudhya of charges on poll fraud in a 2006 election.

Four others were sentenced to jail terms ranging from two years to three years and four months.

In its reversal of the Criminal Court’s ruling, the Appeals Court said there was insufficient evidence to charge Gen Thammarak of hiring Amornwit Suwanpol, an Election Commission (EC) official, to change documents to enable disqualified candidates of the Pattana Chat Thai Party to run in the 2006 election.

Gen Thammarak, then an executive of the subsequently dissolved Thai Rak Thai Party, allegedly collaborated with small political parties to contest the ruling Thai Rak Thai Party in the 2006 snap poll.

Three other defendants, all of whom were members of the small-sized Pattana Chat Thai Party, were identified as Chavakan also known as Kornkrit Tosawat, Suksant aka Chatuchai Chaithes and Buntaweesak Amornsin.

The trio, each sentenced to two years jail without suspension, allegedly bribed Mr Amornwit, the second defendant, with Bt30,000 to make changes to election registration documents during March 2-7, 2006.

The court found Mr Amornwit guilty and sentenced him to three years and four months’ imprisonment.

The Criminal Court originally sentenced Gen Thammarak, Mr Chavakan, Mr Suksant and Mr Boonthaweesak to three years and four months in jail and Mr Amornwit, the EC official, to five years imprisonment.

The court said testimony by Mr Chavakan and Mr Suksant against Gen Thammarak were one sided and the former defence minister rejected the allegations, insisting that he was not involved in the bribery.

A smiling Gen Thammarak said on leaving the courtroom that he appreciated the Appeals Court’s verdict and stood firm that he was not involved in the scandal.

He was given moral support by a group of well wishers who packed the courtroom.