Court to probe 32 MPs' shares

Court to probe 32 MPs' shares

Judges say they can carry on working

The Constitutional Court accepts petitions against 32 government MPs accused of breaching the charter's rule on shareholdings in media firms. (Bangkok Post file photo)
The Constitutional Court accepts petitions against 32 government MPs accused of breaching the charter's rule on shareholdings in media firms. (Bangkok Post file photo)

The Constitutional Court on Wednesday accepted petitions against 32 of the 41 government MPs who are accused by the opposition of breaching the charter's rule on shareholdings in media firms, but did not suspend the MPs from their duties.

However, the court rejected petitions against nine others, saying the judges found no grounds for the accusations, according to the court after a three-hour meeting. The 32 MPs have 15 days to submit their defence to the court.

On June 12, House Speaker Chuan Leekpai forwarded petitions initiated by MPs of the Future Forward Party (FFP) against the 41 government MPs to the court. Of the MPs facing eligibility reviews by the court, 26 are from the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), 11 from the Democrats and one each from the Bhumjaithai Party, the Action Coalition for Thailand Party, Chartpattana, and the Prachaphiwat Party.

The court did not order the 32 MPs to be suspended from their duties, saying their cases were different from that of FFP leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. Mr Thanathorn was suspended from his MP duties on May 23, pending a court ruling on whether he had breached the same media-shareholding rules.

In the cases against the 32 MPs, the court said the petitioners did not set up any probe to back their accusations. The petitioners only submitted to the court certificates of the registration of companies and partnerships which only state their objectives, and copies of shareholder lists.

But the petitioners did not present documents showing the business operations of companies or partnerships nor the submission forms of financial statements which might show what business the companies gain an income from. In light of this, it was not clear what business the 32 MPs operated, and the court will have to investigate further, the court said.

There are no grounds for suspending the 32 MPs from their duties at this stage, the court said. But in Mr Thanathorn's case, the Election Commission (EC) launched a probe and found there were grounds to the accusation against him before forwarding the case to the court, the court said.

The EC found he held shares in V-Luck Media Co, a media firm, when he registered as an MP candidate in early February, an alleged violation of Section 98 (3) of the charter, which prohibits owners and shareholders of media and/or publishing firms applying to become MPs.

The court said the documents which the EC handed over to the court clearly include submission forms of financial statements which Mr Thanathorn's company submitted to the Department of Business Development between 2012 and 2015.

The statements clearly showed the company received an income from the sale of magazines and advertising services, the court said.

Regarding the petitions against the nine MPs which were thrown out by the court, the court said checks had found their companies ran businesses selling paper, newspapers, stationery, books, teaching aids, printing equipment, and office equipment, among others, and have nothing to do with the media or publishing.

Speaking after the court's ruling, FFP secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul urged the public to keep an eye on handled the cases involving the 32 MPs.

He said this was different from the case against an FFP election candidate in Sakon Nakhon, Phubet Henlod, and a poll candidate of the Prachachat Party for Ang Thong, Khomsan Sriwanich, who were disqualified by the Supreme Court's Election Cases Division for holding shares in media firms.

Democrat deputy leader Sathit Pitudecha, who is among the 32 MPs, said his company sold mixed concrete and construction material, and has nothing to do with the media. Chartpattana leader Tewan Liptapanlop, who also has a petition lodged against him, said his business deals with land transfers, not the media.

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