By KAS CHANWANPEN
THE TACTIC of going after Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and his anti-junta party members for alleged shareholdings in media companies could come back to haunt the pro-junta camp after a similar allegation was made against one of its members.
At least 12 members of the Future Forward Party, including Thanathorn, have been singled out for alleged shareholdings in media companies, putting them at risk of being disqualified as members of the House of Representatives.
The law prohibits holders of shares in media companies from contesting elections.
Party dissolution is also a possible punishment for parties that approved such ineligible candidates, according to the law.
Thanathorn yesterday met the Election Commission (EC) to clarify his case, but another anti-junta party, Pheu Thai, targeted the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party for a similar violation, accusing its executive Chanwit Wiphusiri of allegedly holding shares in media companies. Pheu Thai said it would lodge the complaint with the EC today.
Chanwit contested and won from Bangkok’s Min Buri district as Phalang Pracharat’s candidate and is set to become a member of the lower house.
At a press conference yesterday, Pheu Thai’s legal expert Chusak Sirinin said that as it could be proved Phalang Pracharat had approved Chanwit to contest in the election while he was a shareholder in a media company, the EC could petition the Constitutional Court to disband the party. Chanwit, meanwhile, argued yesterday that he was only involved in real estate business. His company was not involved in media, though it appeared on paper to be running a media business.
Separately, Thanathorn warned that if Future Forward members became targets for having media shareholdings, then many others from other parties would also have to go down for the same reason.
“If they’re going to apply this standard, MPs from all parties will disappear [from the lower house],” Thanathorn told the press.
Thanathorn had prepared some 27 items of evidence to prove to the poll authority that he had divested his stake on January 8, well before he registered to run in the election that took place a month later. Before meeting with the EC, Thanathorn told the press he had no trouble clarifying the issue. “I’m very carefree and confident. I didn’t have to prepare much for today. I only have to insist on the truth,” Thanathorn said. “I’m confident that I will be endorsed as an MP [when the election results are announced] on May 9.”
Thanathorn yesterday was accompanied by at least 80 colleagues, who would also become MPs, including party secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul who was a law professor before joining politics. Scores of supporters were also present to provide the politicians moral support at the EC office.
While the accusers were nitpicking about the transaction, Piyabutr asserted that the only worthwhile point was the transfer of shares was done on January 8, which was before MP registration and hence Thanathorn should not be disqualified. Piyabutr said the party had evidence that the shares of the 11 other party members had already been transferred and he believed they would eventually be cleared.
After meeting with the EC for over three hours, Thanathorn said the EC’s investigation committee had been unable to explain why the transaction had become an issue when the transfer was done before MP registration.
Thanathorn said he firmly believed the lawsuit was politically motivated.
Ex-law professor Piyabutr also said the party would sue the agency for negligence of duty.
The charge against Thanathorn may have been unlawful, he said. The EC should have allowed Thanathorn to clarify the matter before pressing the charge, he explained.