Chuan hits out at poll spending by opposition

in Bangkok THAI Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai - searching for the soft underbelly of his chief rivals - is seeking to show that his rival parties are breaching legal limits on election spending.

The move is part of the Democrat Party's campaign to focus attention on politicians buying their way into power in the July 2 election.

The premier is to ask the authorities whether spending by party headquarters should be included in the one million baht (about HK$299,000) limit on each candidate's election expenses.

The Democrats' secretary-general, Sanan Kachornprsart, warned that any party found by the courts to have violated the legal spending limit, could invalidate the election of all MPs.

There have already been bitter complaints that the new leader of the Palang Dharma (Buddhist force) party, telecommunications tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra, is spending much larger amounts in his campaign.

Palang Dharma used to pride itself on running a deliberately spartan campaign, but under the ambitious Mr Thaksin's new leadership, the party has deployed sophisticated election advertising, including spot TV adverts that cost up to 300,000 baht a minute.


Mr Thaksin denied the charge, saying his party did not buy votes so it had money to spare for advertising.

The Democrat's Mr Sanan said the spending loophole had been brought to the Government's attention by the independent election monitoring organisation PollWatch.

Independent observers have claimed that 10 billion to 20 billion baht could be spent by parties luring powerful MPs from rival parties and bribing voters and village headmen.

The electorate's perceived disillusionment with the current coalition Government's slow progress has allegedly persuaded several political heavyweights to bet the farm on getting into power.


However, Snoh Thienthong, the secretary-general of the Chart Thai (Thai nation) party, widely tipped as favourite to lead the next government, said 'it shows the Democrat Party is so desperate it is prepared to do anything to gain the upper hand'.

'This is what we call foul play by a potentially sour loser.' Meanwhile, the Business Management Service, a group of politically active businessmen, has said it will offer rewards totalling more than one million baht to encourage young people to report vote-buying.


'Vote-buying can obstruct Thailand's democratic system from prospering. We want to show we truly believe in democracy,' said one of the group's leaders, Staporn Chinajit, executive vice-president of the Siam Commercial Bank.