FFP head faces new legal fight

FFP head faces new legal fight

Thanathorn out as MP, judges confirm

Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit leaves the Constitutional Court after its ruling on Wednesday. Pattarapong Chatpattarasill
Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit leaves the Constitutional Court after its ruling on Wednesday. Pattarapong Chatpattarasill

The Constitutional Court's decision to strip Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit of his MP status over his controversial media share-holding on Wednesday has raised the prospect of the Election Commission (EC) pursuing a criminal case against the FFP leader.

EC secretary-general Pol Col Jarungvith Phumma said the ruling is likely to be included in a related case in which Mr Thanathorn is accused of violating Section 151 of the law on the election of MPs.

''Section 151 stipulates that those who apply to be MPs despite realising that they fail to qualify under the law could face a jail term of up to 10 years, a fine of between 20,000 and 200,000 baht, and also may have their voting rights suspended for 20 years,'' he said.

Pol Col Jarungvith said an inquiry committee investigating the case is expected to include the court's ruling in its consideration because the ruling states says Mr Thanathorn is not qualified to apply as an election candidate.

The election law prohibits candidates from owning media shares. Mr Thanathorn reportedly held 675,000 shares in V-Luck Media Co when the FFP submitted the names of its party-list MP candidates to the EC on Feb 6.

In its ruling on Wednesday, the Constitutional Court dismissed all documents, including those concerning the share transfer, supplied by Mr Thanathorn in his defence.

The court said they were issued by V-Luck Media, which kept them to itself and none of them were official documents recorded by the Business Development Department to prove the share transfer.

Due to the irregularities in Mr Thanathorn's media share transfer, the court ruled 7-2 to strip him of his MP status. Since Mr Thanathorn has already been suspended from duty pending the court's decision, the effective date for his disqualification dated back to May 23, when he was suspended.

Some political observers believe the court's ruling will allow the EC to go ahead with its threat to hold him accountable under Section 151 of the election law.

Stithorn Thananithichot, acting director of the Office of Innovation for Democracy under the King Prajadhipok's Institute, said on Wednesday the court's ruling is likely to mark the beginning of a fresh process against the FFP leader.

He said the EC has already threatened to file charges against Mr Thanathorn for violating Section 151 of the MP election law if the court's ruling endorsed its process against the FFP leader. "I think it won't take long for the EC to accuse Mr Thanathorn of violating Section 151," he said.

Mr Stithorn said the FFP leader's decision to join the FFP's campaign for an end to mandatory military conscription in Siam Square following the court's ruling on Wednesday is likely to deflect pressure and distract attention from other cases to follow.

Jade Donavanik, a former adviser to the Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC), said the FFP's board may face charges under Section 132 of the charter for fielding Mr Thanathorn as a party-list MP candidate. He expressed concerns the FFP's campaign in Siam Square would expand into a political and street protest.

In a media interview during the campaign for the abolition of conscription, Mr Thanathorn insisted on Wednesday the campaign was to raise awareness only, not to stir up a protest.

The FFP leader declined to comment on the possibility of facing a criminal charge over the media share-holding. The campaign received wide attention and dozens of people asked him for selfies.

Mr Thanathorn said after the ruling his wife handled all financial matters in their household and in his opinion, it was entirely up to his family to decide who should cash cheques.

He pledged to continue his political role outside parliament to seek constitution amendments and key bills, especially the military service bill under which his party wants to replace conscription with voluntary service.

"The 24 March election was not the only battlefield. The FFP is a journey. We will continue to run for other elections. Most importantly, I still retain the prime ministerial candidate status. Don't worry. The court ruling will not culminate in the party dissolution," he said, but refused to state whether he will run for the upcoming gubernatorial election.

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