Judgement day for Thanathorn
Judgement day for Future Forward Party (FFP) leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit arrives on Wednesday.
Whether he will survive the charge of owning media shares in violation of the constitution, filed against him by the Election Commission, depends on the mercy of the Constitutional Court judges. But some political pundits who claim to be in the know say the firebrand FFP leader will definitely lose his MP status.
Mr Thanathorn, however, is not the type of person to just sit idly by and wait silently for the judgement to come down on him without fighting back a bit to show his contempt for this whole episode, which has put him in this predicament.
In a surprise move on Friday, Mr Thanathorn called a press conference to declare his innocence and disclose to the media his closing statement in defence of the V-Luck Media share ownership case that he submitted to the court one day earlier. The FFP leader said the reason he is on trial before the charter court is not his media share ownership, but because he dared to stand up against the junta, the now-defunct National Council for Peace and Order. He also did the unthinkable by asking the court judges outright whether they want to see Thailand trapped in a vicious cycle of civilian governments and military rules or to break away from it.
Love him or hate him, Mr Thanathorn is candid about his contempt for what he described as the perpetuation of power of the former military junta led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. And there are grains of truth about his claim that his media shareholding case is not the real reason for all the political troubles confronting the party.
Some 20 more cases are pending against the party and the other core party leaders, namely Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, the secretary-general, and Pannika "Chor" Wanich, the spokeswoman. They were filed by the party's opponents and appear to stem from the same fear that the party poses a real threat not just to the junta, but to the status quo. The party's war cries threaten change, prominent among them the rewriting of the constitution that Ms Pannika said "sucks", and the abolition of military conscription.
The Future Forward Party did the unthinkable when all except seven of its MPs voted against the government's executive decree to transfer some army units and their funds to a royal security command unit while all the six opposition parties voted in support of the decree. Mr Piyabutr, the party's chief ideologue, explained the party did not oppose the transfer, but disagreed with the government's decision to issue an executive decree instead of proposing a bill to parliament for consideration.
Pro-status quo pundits believe Mr Thanathorn's media ownership case will be the first domino to fall that will eventually lead to the dissolution of the party. Other cases include the accusation that the party is a threat to the constitutional monarchy, which was brought to the attention of the charter court by Nathaporn Toprayoon, a former adviser to the Chief Ombudsman.
Regarding the media shareholding case, there are two schools of thought on how to approach it. The first is for the court to interpret the charter in accordance with the spirit of the law; the second, a strict interpretation in accordance with the letter of the law.
Going back to the drafting of the provision about media ownership by politicians, the real intention is to prevent politicians from using the media for their political benefit or for harming their opponents. V-Luck Media is not a media firm by nature. It was just a production house that produced non-political magazines for Nok Air and Siam Commercial Bank. Hence, its publications could not make any political waves that would benefit or hurt any politicians or parties. Moreover, the company had already ceased operation before the announcement of the March 24 election.
Well, it depends on the Constitutional Court judges to decide. But whatever the outcome of the ruling on Wednesday, it will only affect Mr Thanathorn and not the party.
Veera Prateepchaikul is former editor, Bangkok Post.
Former Bangkok Post Editor, political commentator and a regular columnist at Post Publishing.