Democrats split over ethics probe

Democrats split over ethics probe

Members discuss Prinn's charges

Prinn Panitchpakdi (right) a former deputy leader of the Democrat Party, arrives at Lumphini police station in Bangkok to report to police on Saturday morning after he was accused of sexually abusing women. (Photo: Wassayos Ngamkham)
Prinn Panitchpakdi (right) a former deputy leader of the Democrat Party, arrives at Lumphini police station in Bangkok to report to police on Saturday morning after he was accused of sexually abusing women. (Photo: Wassayos Ngamkham)

High-profile sexual harassment cases involving former Democrat deputy leader Prinn Panitchpakdi are shaking up the party, with some senior members calling on its executives to take responsibility for appointing him to the position.

Democrat leader Jurin Laksanawisit has insisted the party will not support any wrongdoer and that it does not tolerate sexual harassment.

In a Line chat group of Democrat executives with 36 members, list-MP Srisamorn Ratsamiset shared a Facebook post by Thanat "Luk Nut" Thanakitamnuay, a core anti-government activist, who called for an ethics probe into the party executive committee over Mr Prinn's appointment as deputy leader.

Mr Thanat's wife, Hathairat, is one of five women who made sexual misconduct allegations against Mr Prinn, who quit the party when the scandal surfaced.

Aside from being deputy leader, Mr Prinn, who denies the charges, was head of the party's operations for the Bangkok gubernatorial and council elections.

Referring to the ethics probe, Mr Jurin replied in the group chat to Ms Srisamorn by asking: "Does it mean you agree or disagree?"

Ms Srisamorn said she had no comment.

However, Mallika Boonmeetrakul, a close aide to Mr Jurin and a party executive, shot back, asking if the entire executive committee should face a probe over the conduct of one member.

She also said the sexual harassment accusations against Mr Prinn have yet to be investigated, raising suspicion that those supporting the call for the inquiry into the party executives had a hidden agenda.

"Should the party executives be investigated over an individual's conduct? What do you want? Do you want to change the party leadership? Or do you want to change the party's executives?" she said. "Isn't it a plot?" she added. "We still don't know what is true or false."

In another Line group chat of Democrat MPs and former party MPs with 155 members, Democrat MP for Trang Sathit Wongnongtoey called on executives to take a clear stance on the issue as it has adverse impacts on the party.

He said the scandal is taking a toll on party members and party candidates in the local elections. The party's reputation and image could be hit the worst, he said. "I'm asking the party to take a clear stance on the issue... to give the public confidence that the party won't sit on it," he said.

Former party leader Chuan Leekpai told the party to face the problem head-on. "Don't be afraid of a problem. When there is one, don't run away from it," he said.

Referring to the complaints lodged against Mr Prinn, Mr Jurin said the probe should be allowed to run its course and the party will not interfere in the process. "The party maintains its stance that it won't tolerate sexual harassment and violence," he said.

"We don't condone discrimination. The party has upheld this and it will prove the party's princples in the long run."

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