By The Nation
THE Election Commission (EC) yesterday unanimously resolved to press a charge against Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit over alleged violation of media shareholding rules.
Citing investigations by two EC panels, Sawang Boonmee, the EC deputy secretary-general, told a press conference that Thanathorn had allegedly violated the law by owning or holding 675,000 shares in V-Luck Media Company while registering as a candidate for the general election.
“Thanathorn’s share certificate number is from 1350001 to 2025000,” said Sawang, referring to the findings of two panels the EC had set up to investigate the case.
Thanathorn was accused of contravening Article 98 (3) of the Constitution and Article 42 (3) of election law, which states that a shareholder in a media company is barred from contesting an election for member of parliament, according to the EC. The action is punishable by disqualification. The case was filed by Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for Protection of the Thai Constitution, on March 25. An EC source said the agency had yet to suspend Thanathorn’s right to contest in elections for one year or give him an “orange” card, as it was just an initial charge. Thanathorn will have seven days to give testimony or submit documents in his defence to the EC, Sawang said, adding his lawyers would also be allowed to witness the trial.
After the testimony, the EC will finalise the case as soon as possible in order to finish it before May 9 when it will announce the election results.
However, Sawang said he could not tell at the moment which Article of the laws Thanathorn had violated.
Thanathorn, whose party is tipped to win around 80 MP seats in last month’s election, was on the way back from his tour to Europe. He posted on his Facebook page yesterday that he had been notified to quickly return to Thailand to face an “unexpected” incident.
Future Forward secretary-general, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul yesterday questioned the EC’s decision, saying the poll agency needs to wait until Thanathorn is endorsed as an MP before it can question his qualification.
The news that Thanathorn still allegedly owned the shares while he was an MP candidate was first reported by Isra news agency before the election was held.
The news agency reported that Thanathorn and his wife Raweepan owned a total of 900,000 shares, worth about Bt9 million, in V-Luck Media Company. But all of their shares in the media firm were reportedly transferred to Thanathorn’s mother on March 21, or three days before the election. Thanathorn’s lawyer had earlier said that his client had fully complied with the law, as he had transferred all his shares in the media firm on January 8 or one month before registration for election.
Later it was found that on the day of the reported transfer, Thanathorn was in fact campaigning in Buri Ram. His legal team later said Thanathorn had rushed to Bangkok in the afternoon to sign the transfer document.
However, Srisuwan challenged that claim. The activist yesterday filed additional documents with the EC in the case. Srisuwan said the explanation offered by Piyabutr, was not reasonable and he seemed to produce false documents to defend against the allegation. The activist said it was impossible for Thanathorn to be able to return to Bangkok from Buri Ram in such a short time as claimed by Piyabutr.
Meanwhile, Raksagecha Chaechai, secretary-general of the Office of Ombudsman, said the EC had until tomorrow to submit an explanation to the office regarding a petition seeking an annulment of the March 24 election.
The office last week resolved to accept the petition filed by the now-defunct Thai Raksa Chart Party’s former MP candidate, Reungkrai Leekijwatana, who asked the office to submit its opinion to the Administrative Court or the Constitutional Court regarding whether last month’s election should be annulled.
The petitioner cited confusion and dubious matters occurring after the election for which the EC had failed to find solutions.
Raksagecha said if the EC submitted the explanation in time, the office would be able to make a final decision before the May 9 deadline for the EC to announce the election results.