EC asked if ban on leader could apply to all Move Forward candidates

EC asked if ban on leader could apply to all Move Forward candidates

PPRP candidate presses for Pita to be barred on grounds that he holds shares in a defunct media business

Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat meets supporters near Victory Monument in Bangkok on May 4. (Photo: Nutthawat Wicheanbut)
Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat meets supporters near Victory Monument in Bangkok on May 4. (Photo: Nutthawat Wicheanbut)

A Palang Pracharath candidate has asked the Election Commission if all Move Forward Party candidates should be barred from holding office if their leader is found to have violated a rule against holding shares in a media business.

Ruangkrai Leekitwattana on Thursday cited the opposition party’s own regulations in seeking an even broader interpretation from the EC in the case of Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat.

On Wednesday the PPRP party-list candidate submitted documents to the EC to support his claim that Mr Pita’s trusteeship of shares held by his late father in a long-defunct TV broadcaster could be grounds to bar him from being an MP.

Mr Ruangkrai said Move Forward Party regulations state that its members must not have engaged in any activity banned under Section 98 of the constitution. Holding shares in a mass media organisation is one such criterion for disqualification.

On Wednesday he asked the EC to disqualify Mr Pita from politics for alleged concealment of his shareholding in iTV Plc. He cited Section 98 as the reason.

On Thursday Mr Ruangkrai said he asked the EC to determine if a breach of Section 98 would also result in the termination of Mr Pita’s membership and leadership, in line with the regulations of his party.

In such a case, he suggested, his certification of all party-list and constituency candidates could be in doubt.

EC secretary-general Sawaeng Boonmee said the EC would take time to consider the case to ensure justice, adding that it should not have any impact on the announcement of vote results on Sunday.

Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, a Move Forward campaign assistant and co-founder of the party’s predecessor, Future Forward, wrote on Facebook that the party was not discouraged by any legal attacks.

On the contrary, he said, such attempts to slow its momentum could trigger a show of power by MFP supporters nationwide.

Mr Pita explained on Tuesday that he had informed the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) of the shareholding situation when he declared his assets in 2019. 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.

iTV stopped broadcasting in 2007 and its licence was taken over by Thai PBS. The company was delisted from the Stock Exchange of Thailand in 2014. However, iTV’s business registration remains active because litigation over concession fees owed to the government is not yet concluded, a Thai PBS executive said on Wednesday.

Ownership of shares in a media company led to the ouster of Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the co-founder of Future Forward, after the 2019 election. In Mr Thanathorn’s case, he had held shares in a defunct travel magazine.

The intention of the EC regulation was to ensure that elected politicians could not influence media coverage or financial dealings between media firms and the government. However, in Mr Thanathorn’s case the EC chose to adhere to the letter of the law rather than the spirit.

That led to calls for a review of media shareholdings by dozens of other MPs elected in 2019. The Constitutional Court ruled in October 2020 that one Move Forward MP was guilty but it cleared 57 other MPs, from both government and opposition parties.

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