The Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions has issued a warrant for the arrest of fugitive Charupong Ruangsuwan, a former Pheu Thai Party leader, for allegedly demanding a water supply company pay for air tickets costing nearly 60,000 baht while he was interior minister in 2012.
The warrant was issued on Dec 13 last year when the court scheduled the first hearing of a case brought against Mr Charupong by the Office of the Attorney General. Mr Charupong failed to show up for the hearing. He instead appointed a lawyer to fight the case on his behalf, prompting the court warrant.
The case went to the court after the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) in 2022 concluded there were grounds to indict Mr Charupong under Section 103 of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2018, which prohibits state officials from accepting gifts worth more than 3,000 baht.
The NACC said that in 2012 Mr Charupong, then interior minister in the Yingluck Shinawatra government, demanded Eastern Water Resources Development and Development Plc (Eastwater) pay 39,000 baht for a round-trip air ticket for him to fly between Bangkok and Beijing by China Airlines' business class, and 20,000 baht for a round-trip ticket for him to fly between Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur by Malaysian Airlines' business class. The air tickets cost nearly 60,000 baht in total.
Mr Charupong demanded Eastwater pay for the air tickets even though he had no direct relations with or authority over the company, which is not a state agency, the NACC said.
Mr Charupong fled the country to the United States to evade a summons for him to report to the National Council for Peace and Order after the May 22, 2014 coup.
Late on June 24, 2014 he announced the formation of the Organisation of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy (OFHD), in opposition to the rule of coup leader Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is still prime minister.