EC to rule on FFP loan controversy
Leaks raise questions about transparency
The Election Commission (EC) will decide on the legality of a loan worth over 100 million baht extended by Future Forward Party (FFP) leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit to his own party on Wednesday.
A source close to the matter said on Monday the poll agency has to consider two things -- whether the loan was a donation by an individual under Section 66 of the organic law on political parties, and whether it was unlawfully obtained under Section 62 of the same law.
Section 66 bars any individual from donating and/or giving money, assets and/or interests to parties in excess of 10 million baht within any 12-month period. Meanwhile, Section 62 allows parties to conduct fundraisers and/or receive donations to finance their activities, but it does not include loans as a legitimate financial source for political parties.
The inquiry was launched in response to activist Srisuwan Janya's request in May that the EC investigate whether Mr Thanathorn broke the law by giving a loan to his own party. Mr Thanathorn had admitted that himself at a forum held at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand in March.
Both Mr Thanathorn and the FFP have maintained that since loans are not explicitly specified as a prohibited source of income for political parties under the law, the loan should not be considered illegal.
According to the source, based on the first loan contract dated Jan 2 this year, the FFP borrowed 161 million baht which would be repaid within three years.
Another question that needs to be answered relates to the FFP's ability to repay the loan, as the law prohibits political parties from spending their income on loan repayments, the source said.
"When you borrow money you have the obligation to pay it back. But where will they get the money to repay the loan?" the source said. "The party's income is off-limits in this case."
EC will also decide if the loan was an "income" or "expense" of the FFP, and whether or not it constitutes a "hidden transaction", the source said.
If it rules against Mr Thanathorn and the FFP, the EC may ask the the Constitutional Court to disband the party. The poll agency may also decide to formally charge Mr Thanathorn and summon him to defend himself against the allegations.
Meanwhile, FFP spokeswoman Pannika Wanich questioned if the EC might have already made its decision as she shared what was said to be a leaked document. The document, dated Sept 20, proposed that Mr Thanathorn and other FFP executives be banned from politics for five years.
Ms Pannika said the document had the party "questioning the EC's transparency".