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Thailand high court bans ex-PM from politics, dissolves party for electoral fraud

[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of the Kingdom of Thailand [official website, in Thai] ordered the dissolution of the political party Thai Rak Thai (TRT) [party website] Wednesday after finding that it committed electoral fraud [JURIST report] during last year's annulled elections in violation of national law. The ruling also bars former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile] and 110 other party officials from holding any political office for five years. Party members were found guilty of bribing smaller political parties in an attempt to influence the outcome of the election.

In the same ruling, the court held that the rival Democratic Party [party websites, in Thai] should not be dissolved after finding it not guilty on similar charges of electoral fraud. The court held that the party neither slandered Thaksin, nor bribed smaller parties to influence poll results. In preparation for a potential backlash resulting from the decision, 15,000 Thai troops were deployed [AFP report] Tuesday throughout the country.

The trial against TRT began in January [JURIST report] for allegedly misusing the independent election commission and illegally paying smaller parties to run candidates against it to satisfy minimum vote requirements. In October, Thai Army Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin [BBC profile], who led the September military coup [JURIST report] against Thaksin, admitted that investigators were struggling to find evidence of corruption [JURIST report] during Thaksin's tenure. Despite this, Sonthi stated that Thaksin would not yet be allowed to return. BBC News has more.

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