The Election Commission has found nothing wrong with Palang Pracharath's fund-raising banquet and sees no reason to move for the party's disbandment, EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma said on Tuesday.
Mr Jurungvith said 40 juristic entities and 84 individuals gave donations at the banquet. The commission's investigation had not found any evidence a foreign party was among the donors.
Therefore, the party did nothing that would justify its disbandment. The probe committee would report the finding formally to the EC, he said.
The pro-junta Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) held the banquet at the Impact convention and exhibition complex in Nonthaburi province on Dec 19. It was reported the party raised about 600 million baht from the event, where each of 200 tables with its Chinese-style feast cost participants 3 million baht.
Section 74 of the organic law on political parties prohibits political parties from receiving donations or benefits from a foreigner, foreign juristic entity or locally registered entity with a foreign major shareholder.
The EC is duty-bound to check the sources of party financing.
Mr Jarungvith said complaints against the party for alleged abuse of authority, serving cabinet ministers being party executives, and the nomination of a serving public official, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, as its candidate for prime minister were still being investigated.
Activist Srisuwan Chanya, who earlier submitted a petition with the EC for an investigation of the fund-raising banquet, issued a statement after the EC’s announcement.
“We don’t know to whose petition the EC is responding in the interview. Our organisation has never asked whether foreigners had donated to the party,” said the secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution.
“We have three questions: whether government officials or agencies donated to the party both directly and indirectly; why some of the donor companies which sustained accumulated losses could afford to donate; and whether state officials such as those at City Hall and TAT bought seats since some of the tables were booked under their names,” he said.
The pro-regime party has come under fire after Isra News Agency published online the photo of a seat map of the Dec 19 event, which was divided into zones.
The party claimed to have sold out all seats at 200 tables of 10 at 3 million baht per table, raising 600 million baht. Deputy leader Nattapol Teepasuwan said the party received 650 million as some donors were willing to pay more for the meals.
The map shows tables in colour-coded zones described by names similar to government agencies. Twenty tables were designated in Thai as “Finance”, three as “TAT” (the acronym for Tourism Authority of Thailand) and 10 as “BMA” (Bangkok Metropolitan Administration), Isra News reported.
The news agency claimed it had sent reporters to the event who had seen the map and an organiser confirmed its authenticity.
The report led to discussions about possible conflicts of interests since four incumbent cabinet ministers at the time were the executives of the party.
The map also raised the questions whether the three agencies actually bought seats at the tables with taxpayers’ money or were asked to find donors or buyers who are probably companies with close ties to them. If the latter is the case, critics fear the agencies might have to pay them back in some ways in the future.
All three agencies denied using taxpayers’ money to buy the seats at the tables.