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Thailand’s Proxy Voting Scandal: Three Former MPs Barred for Ethics Breach

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Imagine the scene: the hallowed halls of Thailand’s parliament, where every vote is meant to shape the future of the nation. Yet, in a plot twist worthy of a political thriller, our tale takes an unexpected turn. Enter the former members of the Bhumjaithai Party—Chalong Thoetwiraphong, Phumsit Khongmi, and Natee Ratchakitprakarn—whose political careers have screeched to a resounding halt. Why? They’ve been caught up in a scandal that has forever rewritten the rules on proxy voting.

Back in the not-so-long-ago of January 2020, during the second and third readings of a paramount budget bill, these erstwhile lawmakers decided that their presence was optional, but their votes… not so much. Instead, they left their electronic voting cards in the hands of others to make those pivotal decisions for them. But, as fate would have it, their strategic game of musical chairs came under the judicial spotlight.

The mighty gavel of the Supreme Court has fallen, and the verdict? A lifelong political exile. These three have been barred from the election battleground and the seats of political power for what seems to be an eternity. The reason? A grievous breach of ethics that could be the plot of an award-winning drama—except this time, the consequences are all too real.

It all came tumbling down when Chalong Thoetwiraphong and Phumsit Khongmi were suspended in the autumnal bloom of September 2021. Why, you ask? Because the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) had a small inkling that something was just not right. Meanwhile, Natee Ratchakitprakarn had already lost her MP status in a separate case before this legal masterpiece was painted.

The spectacle unfolded as the court unveiled the evidence. These politicians didn’t bat an eye to stop the charade. No one tried to halt the misuse of their cards, no one scurried around to unmask the culprits, and no whispers reached the House Speaker’s ear. Engagements elsewhere, they claimed—alas, this wasn’t a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card that could save them.

Then came the courtroom cliffhanger: a nine-month sentence for each, quicker than you can say “political intrigue.” But, twists abound, as they were set free on bail—more episodes in this political saga, perhaps?

The real kicker? This proxy voting fracas cast a looming shadow of doubt over the legitimacy of the 2020 budget bill itself. So much so that a re-vote was the only path forward, as per the Constitutional Court’s decree. The budget, just like the Bhumjaithai’s trios’ aspirations, needed a fresh start.

And so, we find ourselves at the end of our tale, where three political careers have been brought to their knees by a voting scandal that will go down in the annals of history. It’s a story of power, ethics, and accountability; a cautionary tale for anyone who dares to leave their duty in another’s hands. Democracy, after all, is no spectator sport.

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