Thanathorn party loan 'may be legal'

Thanathorn party loan 'may be legal'

Law doesn't clearly ban it, says Wissanu

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit
Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit

Future Forward Party (FFP) leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit might be spared punishment if the law does not cover his alleged offence in his loan case, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam hinted on Monday.

Mr Wissanu, who is the government's legal expert, was responding to reporters' question as to whether Mr Thanathorn might be given the benefit of the doubt despite Section 62 of the organic law on political parties not including lending as one of the financial sources of political parties.

According to a legal principle, a person cannot be punished for doing something not prohibited by law, Mr Wissanu said. However, it should be left to the Election Commission (EC) to decide on the case, he said.

Debate has arisen over whether what is not listed as a type of income is allowed or not.

Acting on the issue, activist Srisuwan Janya on Monday submitted additional evidence to the EC to investigate whether Mr Thanathorn broke the law by giving a loan worth over 100 million baht to his own party.

The new evidence involves the National Anti-Corruption Commission's (NACC) disclosure last Friday of the assets and liabilities of a group of 80 MPs.

Mr Thanathorn reported assets of 5.6 billion baht and liabilities of 683,000 baht. The FFP was listed as one of his debtors, with credit lines totalling 191.2 million baht in two contracts, according to the anti-graft agency.

One contract had a credit line of 161.2 million baht, to be repaid in three years in tranches of 80 million, 40 million and 41.2 million baht respectively. The other contract had a credit line of 30 million baht, 2.7 million of which was drawn upon signing the contract. It will be repaid in one year, the NACC said.

In his petition against Mr Thanathorn, which was submitted to the EC on May 21, Mr Srisuwan cited Section 66 of the organic law on political parties, which bars any individual from donating or giving money, assets or interest to parties in excess of 10 million baht a year.

On Saturday, Mr Thanathorn defended his lending to the party. "Loans are not income and I already explained this to the EC when I was summoned to give information about the lending two months ago," he said.

If lending was considered income, he said, the universal accounting standards used by companies and organisations would be affected.

Mr Thanathorn told a forum at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand on March 15 that he gave the loan to help finance his party's election campaign.

Mr Thanathorn admitted that it was simply not possible for the FFP to have been able to raise enough funds in time for the March 24 polls, as the party had only been established on Oct 3 of last year.

For the sake of transparency, Mr Thanathorn said he did not wish to give away "free money", so he lent it to the party which was open about the issue and made it known how the money would be spent.

If found guilty of violating the law on campaign donations, he could be jailed for up to five years and see his election rights stripped for five years, Mr Srisuwan said.

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