Thursday, April 02, 2020

Thanathorn faces more legal hurdles

Apr 24. 2019
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By The Nation

Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit is likely to face another legal problem for allegedly endorsing a party candidate who contested the March 24 election despite being unqualified.

A source at the Election Commission (EC) said yesterday that Thanathorn was likely to be investigated after a Future Forward candidate in Sakon Nakhon province, Phubet Henlot, was found to be ineligible.

The Supreme Court’s Electoral Cases Division on March 19 revoked Phubet’s right to contest the election after learning that he held shares in a media company, which is against the law.

The Constitution, as well as the MP election law, prohibits media-business shareholders from contesting an election.

Thanathorn, as Future Forward Party leader, had signed documents endorsing Phubet as a party candidate.

The EC source said it is a political party’s duty to check and verify the backgrounds of their election candidates and ensure that they are qualified. 

“So the party leaders and other executives should be held responsible for fielding a candidate who is not qualified,” the source said.

According to the MP election law, anyone found guilty of intentionally applying to contest an election despite being disqualified risks up to 10 years, a fine of up to Bt200,000 and the revocation of electoral rights for 20 years.

Party leaders and executives involved can also face criminal punishment as instigators and accomplices, the EC source said yesterday. 

The source cited the Criminal Code, which has specific clauses stating that instigators and accomplices shall also be punished along with the violator.

Thanathorn has also been accused by the EC of violating rules related to holding shares in a media company. On Tuesday, the EC said it found that the tycoon-turned-politician was a major shareholder in V-Luck Media Co Ltd, a magazine publisher, when applying to contest the election. The EC will issue a verdict, though Thanathorn can appeal it in court. 

Meanwhile, key figures in the ruling junta yesterday denied playing any part in the legal problems faced by the Future Forward leader, whose party came third in the national vote in terms of MP seats won unofficially.

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said the ruling National Council for Peace and Order has no power over the matter, which is under the jurisdiction of the EC and relevant courts.

Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, who is in charge of security affairs, yesterday ruled out possible political violence that could result from the legal actions against the Future Forward. He did not think the issue could spark a street protest.

“No disturbance. Everything is in accordance with the law. This is a matter for the EC,” said Prawit, who is also the defence |minister.

Future Forward is a key ally in the anti-junta coalition led by the Pheu Thai Party, which is in a close battle for power with the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party to form the next government.

In a related development, the lawyer of Future Forward Party, Worawut Bootmart, said yesterday that Thanathorn has until May 1 to submit his defence statement in relation to the EC’s accusation regarding his media shareholding. 

The lawyer said Thanathorn would call a meeting of the party’s legal team as soon as he returns to Bangkok from Europe this evening.


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