FFP pays price for meteoric rise

FFP pays price for meteoric rise

Following the Constitutional Court ruling last week that disqualified Future Forward Party (FFP) leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit as an MP, the Election Commission (EC) said it is considering whether to file criminal charges against him in a related case for violation Section 151 of the Members of the House of Representatives Election Act 2018. But FFP spokeswoman Pannika Wanich has made a valid point about the law in a defence of the party's leader.

Under the law, those applying to be MPs despite realising that they are ineligible can face a jail term.

Mr Thanathorn's MP status has been revoked because the court ruled he owned shares in his family-owned firm, V-Luck Media Co, at the time he registered his election candidacy.

Ms Pannika pointed out the essence of Section 151 is that candidates, whoever they are, must be fully aware they are eligible to contest an election at the time they register their candidacy at election offices. In Mr Thanathorn's case, she said her party leader had transferred all his shares in V-Luck Media Co to his mother, Somporn, on Jan 8 and, therefore, believed in good faith that he was eligible to contest the March 24 poll until it was ruled otherwise by the court.

Given the odds stacked against the party and herself, Ms Pannika should be admired for having the courage to speak her mind to protect Mr Thanathorn.

In finding Mr Thanathorn guilty of share ownership in violation of the constitution, it should be noted the majority of the judges placed more emphasis on the procedure of the share ownership transfer, or paperwork, rather than on the fact Mr Thanathorn had actually transferred his shares to his mother on Jan 8.

The list of shareholders of V-Luck Media Co still bore the name of Mr Thanathorn at the time of his candidacy registration. Obviously, a case of oversight by Mr Thanathorn or his lawyers.

But the next case awaiting Mr Thanathorn is more serious because of the grim prospect he may face a jail term of up to 10 years and a ban from politics for up to 20 years, as specified in Section 151, if he is found guilty by the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office-Holders.

That this provision was introduced is not without a valid reason as politicians in the past have exploited media that they controlled or owned, either to protect their own vested interests or to harm their political opponents. The penalties are, however, overly disproportionate in equating the offenders to serious criminals.

Like any criminal cases, the intention of an offender is an essential element for the court to consider when ruling whether an offender is guilty or not. Hence, in Mr Thanathorn's case, if he is tried by the Supreme Court, his intention to transfer his media shares should be given priority over the paperwork aspect.

Opponents of Mr Thanathorn and the FFP who have already celebrated his disqualification are demanding more blood, hoping sadistically that he will end up in jail with his political career finished for good.

All eyes will be watching how the Supreme Court treats this case. So, the court must proceed with fairness to the defendant and, and if it has any misgivings, he should be given the benefit of doubt.

As widely noted by political observers, the Constitutional Court's conviction of Mr Thanathorn is just the beginning. More court cases are coming up against him and his party.

The future looks bleak, but it should not break the spirit of the other young politicians in the party.

There is no doubt that the meteoric rise of the party has become not just the envy of its opponents, but also a threat to the status quo because of its cries for radical change, starting with an overhaul of the constitution.

The party appears to be moving so fast, as if there is no tomorrow, that the rest of the country cannot catch up. Patience -- a noble quality praised and preached by many great minds from past to present such as the Lord Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, Julius Caesar, Bill Gates and Jack Ma to name just a few -- appears to be lacking among the party's core members, including Mr Thanathorn.

The party has been in politics for less than a year and has made significant gains, and there is still time for it to regroup and move forward, step by step on solid ground, instead of leaping and falling.

Veera Prateepchaikul is former editor, Bangkok Post.

Veera Prateepchaikul

Former Editor

Former Bangkok Post Editor, political commentator and a regular columnist at Post Publishing.

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