The ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) faces an investigation that could result in its dissolution after a key party figure admitted the party accepted a donation from the alleged owner of a Bangkok pub raided early this week.
A highly placed source in the Election Commission (EC) said the poll agency can launch a fact-finding investigation without waiting for a petition to be lodged following the disclosure from PPRP's chief strategist Somsak Thepsutin that the party accepted three million baht from Chaiyanat Kornchayanant last year.
Mr Chaiyanat, a Chinese businessman who was granted Thai citizenship, is allegedly linked to the pub in Yannawa district that was raided on Tuesday night. According to police, the pub had no licence, and dozens of clients tested positive for illegal drug use.
According to the source, the EC is authorised to investigate on its own if there is information that a political party might have committed an offence that could result in party dissolution.
In this case, the EC's secretary-general who serves as the registrar of political parties, can gather facts and evidence and submit the findings to the EC for further action, said the source.
Activist Srisuwan Janya on Friday lodged a petition with the EC demanding the investigation.
Nipit Intarasombat, deputy leader of the Sang Anakhot Thai Party, wrote on Facebook that the issue has raised a number of troubling questions for the ruling party.
He said it must be established if Mr Chaiyanat had dual nationality when he made the donation. If he had dual citizenship at that time, the PPRP could be held in violation of Section 74 of the organic law on political parties.
The section prohibits political parties from receiving donations or benefits from foreigners, foreign juristic entities or locally registered entities with a foreign major shareholder. The offence can lead to the party's dissolution.
Mr Nipit also called on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is the PPRP's prime ministerial candidate, the interior minister who granted citizenship, and the EC to address the issue.
However, he voiced scepticism that the public would get to the truth as the ruling party is at the centre of the scandal.
Mr Somsak, who is also justice minister, said while the PPRP did not run background checks on individual donors, it examined all donations to make sure they were in compliance with the EC's regulations.
He insisted that none of the party members had personal connections with Mr Chaiyanat.
PPRP leader Gen Prawit Wongsuwon expressed confidence that the party would not be dissolved over the donation, saying the party had already forwarded the case to the EC.
When asked if the party would be dissolved, he said "no".
When asked if he had concerns, he said he stood by Mr Somsak's media interview.
When asked again if as the party leader he was concerned, Gen Prawit shook his head.
Chuvit Kamolvisit, a former MP, wrote on Facebook that parties must be sceptical of large donations from individuals, as ordinary people are unlikely to give such large sums.