Bhumjaithai Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul says a former MP candidate of the party was acting strictly in a personal capacity when he filed a complaint about media share ownership against Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat.
Bhumjaithai had nothing to do with the actions taken by former Bangkok MP candidate Nik Saengsirinawin, Mr Anutin said after a meeting of the caretaker cabinet on Tuesday.
“The leader and the secretary-general of the party are the only persons who can carry out activities on behalf of the party,” said Mr Anutin, who is also a deputy prime minister and public health minister.
“The action of Mr Nik was personal and he made the move in his capacity as a citizen, not as a representative of the Bhumjaithai Party.
“The party never did such a thing. The party has nothing to do with it and would never waste its time on such a matter. We never hit below the belt.”
Mr Anutin said that he had personally congratulated the Move Forward Party for winning the most seats after learning about the election results on the night of May 14.
“I have always given moral support to the Move Forward Party,” he said.
Mr Nik is among those who have questioned Mr Pita’s eligibility to be an MP because he held shares in iTV, a broadcaster that has not engaged in any media activities for 15 years.
The constitution prohibits a shareholder of a media organisation from running in a general election. The intent of the rule was to prevent politicians from influencing media coverage. The 42,000 shares held by Mr Pita, which he says he transferred to others in late May, represent about 0.0035% of the total shares in iTV.
Mr Nik admitted that he too had held shares in iTV but he transferred them to another man who in April asked during an iTV shareholders’ meeting if iTV remained a media organisation.
iTV chairman Kim Siritaweechai replied: “As of now the firm is not doing anything. It has to wait for a legal case to end.”
However, the official minutes of the meeting do not match with the video recording that was obtained by TV Channel 3 and broadcast on Sunday. As a result, some doubt has been cast on the validity of the complaints against Mr Pita.
The majority shareholder of iTV is Intouch Holdings Plc, which in turn counts Gulf Energy Plc, controlled by billionaire Sarath Ratanavadi, as its major shareholder. Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction, in which Mr Anutin’s family are major shareholders, has a 1.88% shareholding, worth about 10.3 billion baht at current prices, in Gulf Energy.