Constitutional Court ends Saksayam Chidchob’s ministerial career for now. Ex-Transport Minister resigns from Bhumjaithai Party after court ruling. Violation of Section 187 of the 2017 Constitution upheld. Future return as a minister suggested by Deputy Minister of the Interior Chada Thaiset who briefed reporters for his party.
Despite being found to have breached Section 187 of the Constitution by a court on Wednesday, Deputy Minister of the Interior Chada Thaiset said that former Minister of Transport Saksayam Chidchob will be able to return to a ministerial career at a later date. After the court majority decision was handed down, Mr Saksayam immediately resigned from the Bhumjaithai Party where he was Secretary-general.
On Wednesday, Mr Saksayam Chidchob, the Secretary-General of the Bhumjaithai Party and Member of Parliament, tendered his resignation.
This move followed immediately on the heels of a Constitutional Court ruling that terminated his ministership in the previous government for an illegal shareholding in a private firm.
Court had previously suspended Mr Saksayam when it took up the case in March 2023 in a unanimous decision. Today’s majority decision was not a surprise.
At length, the court upheld claims in relation to the former Minister of Transport’s privately held shareholding in Buri Charoen Construction Limited Partnership. Previously, in 2023 when the court took up the case after it was referred to it by parliament, it suspended Mr Saksayam as a minister.
This latest ruling merely confirms this but also upholds the complaint against him. It will not come as a surprise or shock to the Bhumjaithai Party leadership.
Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul confirmed the receipt of Saksayam’s resignation letter and expressed acceptance. Anutin emphasised that the party would inform the Election Commission about the development. In brief, he referred to the regulations for political party registrars.
Court found he owned the shares in the family firm despite the existence of a commercial contract with a third party. Today’s decision was limited to this
The resignation comes after the Constitutional Court ruled that Saksayam’s status as a minister ended on March 3, 2023.
The majority vote by the court concluded that Saksayam violated Section 187 of the Constitution. In effect, he allowed another person, Mr. Supawat Kasemsut, to manage his shares in Buri Charoen Construction. This is a firm owned by the Chidchob family. The court took the view that the minister still retained ownership.
The company is understood to have benefited substantially from government contracts. However, this was not the issue before the court on Wednesday.
A controversy erupted in February 2023 during a government debate when the matter was raised.
Subsequently, various allegations were made by whistleblower Chuwit Kamolvisit relating to government contracts. Mr Chuwit was afterwards threatened with defamation proceedings by Mr Saksayam but later took his claims to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).
Not linked to corruption although the firm received ฿1 billion in contracts from the Transport Ministry. Ex Minister found in breach of the constitution
Significantly, although Buri Charoen Construction Ltd was awarded over ฿1 billion in government contracts, there is no evidence of corruption.
Today’s court ruling found the ex-minister breached Section 187 of the Constitution by owning shares in a private concern.
The ruling affirms the unanimous decision in March 2023 that the then-minister should cease to act.
Despite the court’s ruling, Bhumjaithai Party spokesperson Mr Chada Thaised clarified that Saksayam’s resignation would not adversely impact his party.
Mr Chada stressed that the case did not involve corruption. At the same time, he highlighted Saksayam’s intent to return to a ministerial role in a year.
Mr Saksayam reported in ‘in good spirits’ after the court’s ruling. Deputy Interior Minister says his resignation showed a ‘sense of responsibility’
‘Saksayam is still in good spirits,’ assured Mr Chada. ‘This will not affect the party or the government. In just one more year, he will be able to return as a minister.’
‘Saksayam himself submitted a resignation letter from his position as an MP to the House of Representatives President, effective January 17, 2024. The decision to step down from both party and parliamentary roles reflects Saksayam’s sense of responsibility following the court’s judgement.’
Mr Chada is Deputy Minister of the Interior. Consequently, he works closely with party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul who is Minister of the Interior.
As Saksayam exits, attention turns to the successor for the MP position. The next in line, according to the list, is Ms Chanthida Asawahem, known as ‘Nong Pleng.’
The Constitutional Court’s decision stemmed from a case initiated by 54 Members of the House of Representatives. The group, through the Speaker, requested clarification on whether Saksayam’s ministership should be terminated.
The petition argued that Saksayam’s ownership of shares in Buri Charoen Construction, even if held by another person, violated constitutional provisions.
After months of examination, the court revealed its decision on Wednesday.
Full decision by the court on shareholding in commercial concerns will be of interest to many across the political divide and business people in politics
It found that Saksayam and Supawat Kasemsut engaged in a transaction involving funds, leading to the purchase and sale of shares. Despite the transaction, however, it found Saksayam retained ownership of the shares through Supawat, a breach of Section 187.
The court ruled that Saksayam’s ministership certainly ended on March 3, 2023. Afterwards, this decision was communicated to the public in a session that lasted over an hour. A full verdict or judgement will come later.
This full written verdict will be of interest to many parties. In essence, the issue of ownership of company shares remains a source of controversy. Certainly, it poses a challenge for business executives entering politics and taking up public roles.
Significantly, the Constitutional Court will rule next week on the political career of former Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat. That case also revolves around a shareholding in a commercial concern and media company.