Observers split on Pita's media share controversy

Observers split on Pita's media share controversy

Move Forward Party (MFP) leader Pita Limjaroenrat is surrounded by party supporters during a campaign rally near Victory Monument in Bangkok on May 4, 2023. (Photo: 	Nutthawat Wicheanbut)
Move Forward Party (MFP) leader Pita Limjaroenrat is surrounded by party supporters during a campaign rally near Victory Monument in Bangkok on May 4, 2023. (Photo: Nutthawat Wicheanbut)

Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the Move Forward Party (MFP), is facing new scrutiny over claims that he owns shares of a now-defunct media company.

Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) list-MP candidate, on Wednesday petitioned the Election Commission (EC) and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to investigate Mr Pita, also the party's prime ministerial candidate.

The move followed Mr Pita's explanation on Tuesday, in which he said the iTV shares belong to his family but appear to be registered under his name as he had been appointed executor for the shares.

He said he was appointed executor when his father, the shares' original owner, died 17 years ago. He wasn't worried about the fresh attempt to discredit him, as the NACC had been briefed about their existence.

Citing company registration documents from the Department of Business Development, Mr Ruangkrai insisted on Wednesday that as of April 27 last year, Mr Pita owned 42,000 shares in iTV.

Mr Ruangkrai also said that at iTV's last shareholders meeting, the company's executives said iTV is still a media company, despite having ceased operations.

Mr Ruangkrai said Mr Pita might be right when he said he had already explained to the NACC regarding the shares, but what he petitioned the EC to look into now was Mr Pita's eligibility to run in the past general election, which is a different issue.

Since Mr Ruangkrai did not find these iTV shares in the assets list declared by Mr Pita to the NACC when he was sworn in as MP after the last election, he said he'd also petitioned the NACC to investigate whether Mr Pita had falsely declared his assets.

"I'd like the EC to quickly act in this case as its decision could change the outcome of the election," he said.

If the EC seeks the Constitutional Court's opinion on the matter, the case would likely end the same way as the media shareholding case faced by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, who now serves as a campaign assistant of the MFP, said Mr Ruangkrai.

Mr Thanathorn ended up being disqualified as an MP after the court ruled he was not qualified to run in the last election because he held shares in V-Luck Media Co.

Mr Ruangkrai shrugged off criticism saying he was attempting to discredit Mr Pita, whose popularity is rising.

The media share case lodged against Mr Pita was met with mixed reactions on Wednesday.

Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn cited Section 1599 of the Civil and Commercial Code to say Mr Pita could never claim the iTV shares didn't belong to him at all. As one of the heirs to the shares, he automatically received his part of the inheritance when his father died.

Sarinee Achavanuntakul, an independent academic, meanwhile, said the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions tends to pay more attention to how much influence an MP could have upon a media company he holds shares in.

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