Democrat MPs hit by media shareholding claims

Democrat MPs hit by media shareholding claims

Former senator Ruengkrai Leekitwattana has petitioned the Election Commission (EC) to probe 10 Democrat MPs -- including party heavyweights Korn Chatikavanij and Jitpas Kridakorn -- for allegedly violating media shareholding rules prior to registering as election candidates.

The 10 MPs, who were shareholders in print businesses and publishing firms, are suspected of failing to transfer their shares prior to submitting  their applications, said Mr Ruengkrai, who based his accusations on shareholding documents issued by the Department of Business Development.

Mr Korn, a Democrat party-list MP, says he gave his shares to another person, but Mr Ruengkrai claimed the shares were transferred on April 9 — about two months after the MP application period ended. Candidacy applications were accepted between Feb 4 to 8.

In the case of Ms Jitpas, who was recently endorsed as a party-list MP following an election re-run in Chiang Mai, Mr Ruengkrai found her name on a shareholders' list during her company’s annual meeting on April 30 this year.

The other eight Democrats facing similar accusations are all constituency MPs, mostly from the southern region.

They are Phangnga MP Kantawan Tanthian, Rayong MP Banyat Chetanachan, Ratchaburi MP Akkharadet Wongphithakrot, Prachuap Khiri Khan MP Pramuan Phongthawaradet, and Nakhon Si Thammarat MP Chaichana Detdecho, as well as three Surat Thani MPs — Phanu Sibutsayakan, Wachiraphon Kanchana and Somchat Praditthaphon.

Mr Ruengkrai said the poll agency has to apply the "same standards" they used to probe Future Forward Party (FFP) leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, who is accused of violating the same rule.

“I ask the EC to quickly forward the cases [against the 10 MPs] to the Constitutional Court in the same manner,” Mr Ruengkrai said on Thursday, as he presented evidence of the alleged irregularities to the EC.

The court last week found the accusation against Mr Thanathorn has grounds and decided to suspend him as an MP.

If the evidence corroborates the claims, then the court should immediately issue an order to suspend them as MPs, Mr Ruengkrai added.

Mr Thanathorn and the 10 Democrats are suspected of violating Section 98(3) of the charter, which prohibits owners and shareholders of media and/or publishing firms applying to become MPs.

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