Don't rush new FFP case
The Election Commission (EC), whose commissioners were appointed by the former junta's lawmakers, seems unable to stop dragging itself into being a subject of yet another controversy by rushing to wrap up another case against the Future Forward Party (FFP).
It has been reported by the media that the EC is scheduled to hold a meeting tomorrow to make a decision regarding the case, which involves a 110-million-baht loan that the anti-junta party borrowed from its leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.
EC chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong last week said it would no longer wait for evidence to be submitted by the FFP because the deadline had passed. But FFP secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul has criticised the poll agency for giving the party only two weeks to submit a large number of accounting and financial documents. The FFP requested 120 more days.
The poll agency decided to investigate the case following a complaint filed by prolific activist Srisuwan Janya who accused the FFP of violating the Political Party Act's Section 66, which prohibits an individual from giving a donation or any other benefit worth more than 10 million baht to a party. He alleged that the FFP loan arrangement is an offence because the act does not state whether this is permissible.
Under the law, the punishments can be harsh. If found guilty, Mr Thanathorn could be subject to a prison term of up to five years and/or a fine of up to 100,000 baht. His voting rights and those of other party executives could also be terminated for five years.
Given that this appears to be another politically motivated case, the EC should have handled it in a far more straightforward and fairer manner. If it has requested a long list of documents from the party, then it should provide the FFP enough time to gather these from its branches nationwide.
During its investigation of the previous media shareholding case against Mr Thanathorn, the agency was accused of not giving him enough time to defend himself and present his evidence. On the other hand, the poll agency provided much more time for a defendant in another similar shareholding case, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, who is a politician from the governing political camp.
Earlier, in March this year, the EC was criticised for political partisanship when it cleared the Palang Pracharath Party of wrongdoing over its 600-million-baht fundraising banquet. The poll agency came to its conclusion without even investigating whether certain state agencies and state officials donated to the party as alleged.
The loan case against the FFP involves a dispute over whether or not political parties can seek loans to fund their campaigns and other activities. While Mr Srisuwan claims that this is not allowed by law, other academics and observers disagree, pointing out that borrowing money was common practice among political parties in the past because previous charters allowed them to do so. Moreover, they said these loans should not regarded as party revenue, but rather a financial expense, and therefore they should be allowed as long as they are obtained transparently.
But transparency is what has landed Mr Thanathorn and his party in this hot water. The FFP leader revealed the loan in March during remarks at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand.
The EC must realise that many people see its previous conclusions on many politically motivated cases as a mockery of the law. It should treat this loan case with transparency and fairness. There is no need to rush it.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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