Court suspends Thanathorn from MP

Court suspends Thanathorn from MP

Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit (right) and secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul try the uniforms of political officials on May 12 ahead of the opening of Parliament. It remains unknown when Mr Thanathorn will be able to wear his after the court's ruling on Thursday. (Photo from @Pannika_FWD twitter)
Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit (right) and secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul try the uniforms of political officials on May 12 ahead of the opening of Parliament. It remains unknown when Mr Thanathorn will be able to wear his after the court's ruling on Thursday. (Photo from @Pannika_FWD twitter)

The Constitutional Court has voted 8-1 to suspend Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit from performing his MP duty after it accepted a case against him over possible disqualification involving media shareholding.

The court unanimously decided on Thursday to accept the case in which the Election Commission (EC) asked it to deliberate whether Mr Thanathorn’s status as MP ended since he was holding shares in a media company when he applied to become an MP, a prohibition under Section 98 (3) of the Constitution.

The EC also asked the court to suspend him from duty until the court has a ruling.

“According to the documents supplied by the petitioner [EC], over the past 10 years, every time there was a change in shareholders, the company will submit a shareholder’s list with the date of the shareholders’ meeting to the registrar of Bangkok companies without delay. But this is not the case in this case and the date of the shareholders’ meeting was not specified when there was the change in the shareholders," the court said, referring to V-Luck Media Co Ltd, a company formerly owned by Mr Thanathorn.

“Besides, if the accused performs his duty, it could lead to legal issues and challenges, creating obstacles during the assembly of the House of Representatives. The court therefore ruled 8-1 to suspend him from performing his duty until it has a ruling," the court said in a statement.    

Mr Thanathorn, who is among the 149 party-list MPs that have been endorsed, will have 15 days to respond and/or submit evidence after the court accepted the case.

The former auto-parts tycoon said at a briefing on Thursday evening he disagreed with the court’s decision.

He questioned the EC’s move in sending the case to the court, saying he had evidence an EC panel was still considering the case even after it was sent to the court.

“Why did the seven election commissioners rush to send the case to court? In a similar case involving former foreign minister Don Pramudwinai’s wife, the EC took 417 days to send the case to the court while in my case, it took 53 days.”

Unlike Mr Thanathorn, Mr Don was allowed by the court to continue performing his duty even after the court accepted the case. 

The 41-year-old politician pledged to continue lobbying parties to support the anti-regime alliance to form the government, with him as prime minister. “Thanathorn is still a prime ministerial candidate. And Thanathorn volunteers to be the PM to stop the NCPO regime, to stop the dictatorial rule."

To his supporters, he urged them not to lose heart. “This is not a time for desperation but rather a time to stand up together.

“I’m still an MP and will continue to work with the people. They won’t allow me into Parliament so I’ll be with the people as someone who was trusted by 6.3 million voters,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sorachak Pianvej, secretary-general of the House of Representatives, said the House had not yet officially received the court's order.

According to the protocol, Mr Thanathorn can still attend the opening of Parliament on May 24 at the Foreign Ministry because he has the status of an elected MP. On the next day, he can still attend the meeting at TOT Plc's auditorium because he is not yet sworn in.

"The constitution says an MP officially performs his duty after he is sworn in. Once he is on May 25, he must stop performing his duty by the order of the Constitutional Court," he said.

Earlier, the Election Commission accused Mr Thanathorn of still owning a media company when he applied to become an MP, a prohibition under the MP law and the constitution.

Mr Thanathorn held 675,000 shares in V-Luck Media Co Ltd, which published the people and lifestyle magazine Who and an inflight magazine for Nok Air. The publications folded two years ago and the company was in the process of being closed pending some debt collection.

Mr Thanathorn claimed he had sold the shares to his mother on Jan 8 this year for 6.75 million baht. As evidence, he showed the share transfer certificate signed by a notary, share certificates, an account-payee cheque and a shareholder register.

The change in the register of shareholders of V-Luck Media was reported to the Department of Business Development (DBD) at the Commerce Ministry on March 21.

The change in the shareholder register is simply an annual update that all companies have to submit to the DBD. For obvious reasons, the law does not require companies to inform the DBD every time a share transaction occurs.

Mr Thanathorn said that under the Civil Code (Section 1129), a share transfer takes effect when it is made in writing and before witnesses.


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