The Constitutional Court on Wednesday morning suspended Move Forward Party leader and prime ministerial candidate Pita Limjaroenrat from duty as an elected member of the House of Representatives, and he later left the chamber.
After hearing of the court’s announcement, Mr Pita began walking out of the chamber where parliamentarians were disputing technical issues relating to the legality of his renomination for prime minister.
Mr Pita waved to his Move Forward Party MPs and held up his MP card.
However, he returned to his seat right after MFP MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn pointed out that he should wait for an official advisory letter from the Constitutional Court.
Outside, about 150 pro-Pita demonstrators approached the parliament gate and expressed their disappointment. Some demonstrators threw plastic water bottles at the gate. Crowd control police formed lines inside the gate.
At 2.43pm Mr Pita told the parliament that the court's suspension order had arrived and he would leave the chamber. MPs gave him a round of applause and the parliament president thanked him for respecting the rules.
Mr Pita said, “I’d like to take this opportunity to say goodbye to the parliament president until we meet again. I would like fellow members (of the parliament) to use the parliament to take care of the people. I think that Thailand is different since May 14. If people have won halfway, the other half has yet to come, and even if I haven’t done my duty I ask all fellow members to jointly take care of the people. Thank you very much, Mr President."
He then took his MP identification card off his jacket, placed it on the table in front of his seat and walked out of the chamber.
The 42-year-old raised his fist in the air as he left the assembly floor, to the cheers of fellow lawmakers.
The court made the announcement after accepting for consideration a complaint involving Mr Pita's inherited shareholding in defunct media company iTV Plc.
The constitution prohibits parliamentarians from holding stock in a media organisation. Mr Pita has argued the 42,000 shares were part of his late father's estate, which he managed as executor. He said the title had since been transferred to relatives.
The suspension does not prevent his being nominated as prime minister, which the joint sitting was also debating on Wednesday.
(Pita supporters approach the parliament gate - video by Pornprom Satrabhaya)
The case reached the office of the Constitutional Court last week.
The Election Commission had recommended to the court that Mr Pita be stripped of his MP status over his shareholding in a media organisation. The poll body also asked the court to suspend him from MP duty pending its ruling.
On Wednesday the Constitutional Court said its judges unanimously agreed to accept the case.
It also decided by seven votes to two to immediately suspend Mr Pita from MP duty until its ruling, because of possible legal issues, objections and disputes which could obstruct the work of the House and the parliament.
The court ordered Mr Pita to file his explanation within 15 days of receiving a copy of the ruling.
Pro-Pita demonstrators approach the parliament gate after learning of the court's suspnsion order on Wednesday. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)