Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Thailand ex-MP Muangsook sentenced to 99 years in prison for bribery

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The top court on Thursday sentenced former Pheu Thai MP Watana Muangsook to 99 years in prison for demanding bribes in a housing development project.

The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions convicted Watana of 11 counts of negligence and extorting bribes in the government-initiated Baan Eua Arthorn housing program while he served as the social development minister under Thaksin Shinawatra’s administration more than a decade ago.

“I disagree with the verdict and I will file an appeal,” Watana said after the verdict. “I will not flee anywhere, but I’d rather go to the parliament to cheer for charter amendments.”

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Seven other defendants, which include former singer and Redshirt leader Arisman Pongruangrong who is believed to have fled overseas, were also convicted in the case.

Watana was later granted bail on a 10 million baht bond after a court appearance. If convicted after the appeal, the Pheu Thai heavyweight will only serve 50 years, which is the longest possible sentence under the law.

In its verdict, the court said Watana connived to allow rice trading tycoon Apichart Chansakulporn to demand over 100 million baht in bribes from several construction contractors in exchange for contracts under the welfare housing estate program.

The case was among several handled by the Asset Scrutiny Committee, which was tasked by the 2006 coup leaders to investigate corruption cases filed against Thaksin’s government.

It was halted when Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra came to power, but was later revived after the 2014 coup by the national anti-graft agency, who decided the case had ground for prosecution.

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The Baan Eua Arthorn is a government housing program initiated by Thaksin aimed at the poor.

Watana was a leading figure in the opposition after the military seized power in 2014 and toppled the pro-Thaksin government. He faced several charges in the past for his activism, including an allegation of inciting sedition.

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