Poll disqualification threat looms over Move Forward leader

Poll disqualification threat looms over Move Forward leader

Rival claims Pita failed to declare ownership of shares in media company that stopped operating in 2007

Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat answers reporters' questions during a campaign rally near Victory Monument in Bangkok on May 4. (Photo: Nutthawat Wicheanbut)
Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat answers reporters' questions during a campaign rally near Victory Monument in Bangkok on May 4. (Photo: Nutthawat Wicheanbut)

A candidate of the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) on Wednesday asked the Election Commission to consider disqualifying Move Forward Party (MFP) leader Pita Limjaroenrat from politics for alleged asset concealment.

List candidate Ruangkrai Leekitwattana petitioned the EC to look into Mr Pita's eligibility, claiming that the MFP leader held 42,000 shares in iTV Plc, a broadcaster that stopped operating in 2007. The constitution prohibits a shareholder of a mass media organisation standing in a general election.

Mr Ruangkrai said he had also asked the National Anti-Corruption Commission to find out if Mr Pita had made a false asset declaration regarding the shareholding, alleging he had failed to inform the regulator of his holding during his tenure as an MP.

Mr Pita explained on Tuesday that he had informed the NACC of the situation in 2019 when he made his asset declaration. The shares in iTV were held by his father, who died in 2006. In his role as manager of his father’s estate, Mr Pita said he had tried to sell the shares but could not find a buyer.

Asked if his complaints were aimed at blocking Mr Pita’s possible rise to power after the general election this Sunday, Mr Ruangkrai said that was a matter for individual consideration.

Mr Pita was the favourite PM candidate among respondents in a recent poll.

Senator Somchai Sawaengkan wrote on Facebook on Wednesday that Mr Pita could not deny his ownership of the shares because his father had died 17 years ago, and he had not allocated the shares to anyone else.

Independent Television, or iTV Plc, was the country’s first UHF TV channel and began broadcasting in 1995 under a concession granted by the government. In 2000 it was acquired by Shin Corp, the telecoms group founded by Thaksin Shinawatra. After a lengthy dispute over unpaid concession fees, the government’s Public Relations Department took over the station in 2007 and its frequency was assigned to Thai PBS.

iTV was delisted from the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) in 2014. However, its business registration remains active because the litigation over its concession fees is not yet concluded, according to Anupong Chaiyarit, deputy director-general of Thai Public Broadcasting Service.

In 2022 iTV reported 20.5 million baht in investment and interest income on bond holdings. 

Ownership of shares in a media company was also the undoing of Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the co-founder of the Future Forward Party, the predecessor of Move Forward. In Mr Thanathorn’s case, he had held shares in a travel magazine that ceased publication before he filed to run as an MP. But the Election Commission in 2019 ruled that the offence was sufficient to disqualify him as an MP.

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