A network of civil groups on Thursday stepped up calls for political parties to tighten the potential election candidate screening process after a Move Forward Party (MFP) Bangkok city councillor became embroiled in a sex scandal.
Sathon district councillor Arnuparb Tarntong reported to police at Thung Mahamek police station on Wednesday and denied sexual harassment accusations brought by four young women, all party supporters.
The 38-year-old is one of 14 MFP candidates who won seats in the Bangkok council election on May 22 and the second politician this year to find himself battling charges of sexual abuse.
Prinn Panitchpakdi, former deputy Democrat Party leader, quit the party when allegations were made against him in April.
In light of the latest scandal, a network of civil groups monitoring sexual misconduct involving public figures and those working on children and women development on Thursday demanded that political parties be more rigorous in the screening of potential candidates as well as their political office holders.
Parties should look into candidates' history to see if they have engaged in inappropriate behaviour, including sexual misconduct and harassment or disrespected gender rights, the groups said.
Election candidates should be screened for this and offenders should not qualify to represent parties, they said. They called on the MFP to take action against the politician and the Bangkok City Council not to sit on the issue and stressed that the victims must receive protection.
Thanawadee Thacheen, the network's coordinator, said the city councillor should quit the party to fight the charges.
Ramrung Worawat, deputy permanent secretary for social development and human security, on Thursday urged victims of sexual violence to protect their rights and seek assistance.
She said they are encouraged to contact the Department of Women's Affairs and Family Development and the Department of Children and Youth for both legal and mental support.
Responding to the allegation for the first time on Thursday, Mr Arnuparb tweeted that he is fully prepared to fight the case through every step of the justice system to prove his innocence.
He thanked his supporters for their moral support.
His tweet, however, was met with comments that drew parallels to the Prinn scandal. Whereas Mr Prinn bowed out of the Democrat Party, several netizens urged Mr Arnuparb to do the same and relinquish his city councillor post. On Tuesday, the MFP issued an apology and promised to cooperate with police.
Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn, former Bangkok governor and chief of the party's working team on Bangkok policies, said the MFP would send the case to a disciplinary committee for possible action against Mr Arnuparb.
However, the party would leave the decision about Mr Arnuparb's future on the city council to him, he said.