Court to mull accepting Thanathorn media shareholding case
The Constitutional Court will decide on Thursday whether it will consider a case against the leader of the Future Forward Party, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, who has been accused of violating media shareholding rules laid out in the organic law on elections.
If the court decides to consider the case, Mr Thanathorn will have 15 days to respond and/or submit a countercharge to the charges.
Mr Thanathorn, who is among the 149 party-list MPs who have been endorsed, could be suspended from being a legislator if the court finds enough grounds to accept the complaint, as outlined by Section 82 of the Constitution.
The saga began after the Election Commission (EC) said that Mr Thanathorn still held shares in V-Luck Media Co when he registered as an MP candidate in early February.
Mr Thanathorn denied the charges and said that he and his wife transferred their shares to his mother on Jan 8, immediately after returning from Buri Ram to Bangkok following a campaign rally.
The EC said that V-Luck Media Co is registered with the Commerce Ministry's Department of Business Development to run a newspaper/mass communications business.
The company's financial reports show its revenues come from sales of magazines and advertisements, and so the company is a media business, the EC said.
Some critics have alleged that Mr Thanathorn transferred his media shares to his mother on March 21, citing a report submitted to the Department of Business Development, which Mr Thanathorn said is untrue.
Since MP candidacy applications were held between Feb 4-8, if Mr Thanathorn was still a shareholder on March 21, then he was not qualified to apply as a candidate.
Mr Thanathorn's ownership of shares in a media company when he contested in the March 24 polls may constitute a breach of Section 98(3) of the constitution, which bars owners and/or shareholders of media and/or publishing firms from running as MPs.
Those found guilty could have their MP status revoked under Section 101(6) of the constitution.
Meanwhile, FFP spokeswoman Pannika Wanich said the party is thinking about raising party membership fees from 100 baht to 200 baht as a part of a fund-raising scheme to help pay back a 110-million-baht loan the party received from Mr Thanathorn.
She said that the loan consists of about 90 million baht to fund the party's election campaign activities, while the remainder was earmarked for "miscellaneous" expenses.
Ms Pannika insisted the party and Mr Thanathorn did not break any law and the loan was approved by the party's executives. She pointed out that the law governing political parties covers only the incomes of a political party, not its expenses.
She insisted it is a long-term loan with a low interest rate instead of a donation by an individual, which must not exceed 10 million baht under the law. She added Mr Thanathorn also made a 10-million-baht donation to the party. Activist Srisuwan Janya said he would petition the EC today to probe the issue.