Opposition leader Thanathorn says ruling stripping him of MP status ‘politically motivated’

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, billionaire leader of opposition Future Forward Party, arrives to face his first hearing over disputed media shares at the Constitutional Court in Bangkok on October 18, 2019. Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP
Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, billionaire leader of opposition Future Forward Party, arrives to face his first hearing over disputed media shares at the Constitutional Court in Bangkok on October 18, 2019. Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP

Thai opposition leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit this afternoon said the Constitutional Court’s verdict disqualifying him from parliament was politically motivated.

Eight months after Thanathorn and his progressive Future Forward Party rode a wave of public support to third place in national elections, the court Wednesday found him guilty of breaching election rules by owning shares in a media company.

Speaking after the verdict was delivered surrounded by a large crowd of supporters chanting “fight on,” he said the party’s work would continue.

“There’s still lots of work to be done, I still have to campaign for the amendment of the constitution and campaign for the end of military conscription bill,” he said. “So as a leader of this political party, there is loads of work to do.”

Asked directly whether he thought the verdict was politically motivated, Thanathorn said he thought it was.

Thanathorn had argued that the company, V-Luck Media, was a printing company hired to print in-flight magazines for Nok Air and never handled any political content. More so, the company was disbanded and shut down one year ago in November. The judges rejected his team’s arguments and evidence, saying he violated Section 98(3) of the election code by hanging onto the shares while registering as an MP candidate. 

 Thanathorn has said that he unloaded his V-Luck shares in January, before candidate registration in February for the March vote. 

Prior to the verdict, Thanathorn seemed to be expecting the outcome when he spoke to supporters, saying their cause would go on whatever the outcome. 

Thanathorn’s popularity and widespread youth appeal has alarmed the military-dominated status quo and he was blocked from ever sitting in Parliament when it convened in May.

On Monday, he filed a lawsuit against seven members of the Election Commission for malfeasance by violating its own process by rushing to file the case with the Constitutional Court before its own review was completed.

Criticizing any court decisions is a dangerous prospect. The judiciary shields itself from critique by aggressively pursuing contempt cases against those it accuses of “defamation.”  Several cases have been filed of late, including one against writer Sarinee Achavanuntakul, who was only let off the hook after she apologized publicly.

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CITY: BANGKOKCATEGORY: NEWSSUB-CATEGORIES: POLITICS

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