The decision is not the end of Mr Thanthorn’s legal woes as a number of other complaints have been filed against him. He could also find himself barred from politics or facing other sanctions if further action is taken against him by the Election Commission.
Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit lost his position as a member of the House of Representatives on Wednesday when Thailand’s Constitutional Court disqualified his candidacy and therefore his election based on the party list submitted by the Future Forward Party on February 6th last year. It found that, at that time, Mr Thanthorn was barred from being a candidate as he was a shareholder of a media company in contravention of the Thai constitution and the law governing the election held on March 24th last.
On Wednesday, after Thailand’s Constitutional Court in a 7 to 2 decision disqualified the leader of the Future Forward Party from his position as a list MP for his party, the young leader vowed to continue in politics.
The court’s verdict came somewhat as a surprise to Mr Thanathorn who in October professed that he was confident of victory in the case. The majority decision now also sets a new, very strict standard and precedent for future cases.
The court rejected the January 8th date for the transfer of shares in V Luck Media Co.
The court found that there was no official evidence to suggest that the purported transfer of shares in V Luck Media Co. a publisher of inflight and corporate magazines, had been bona fide.
It noted that the first official notification of the transfer occurred on March 21st last when details of the share transfer by Mr Thanathorn to his mother Mrs Somporn were registered with the Thai Department of Business Development.
Well-wishers outside the court
As Mr Thanathorn and his wife Rawipan arrived at the court on Wednesday on the Chaeng Watthana Road in the Laksi district, they were greeted by a crowd of well-wishers.
The court’s decision was read at 2.30 pm and lasted 40 minutes.
It quickly became clear that Mr Thanathorn would be losing his seat as an MP as the court arrived at its conclusion that the politician, whose party had soared to third place in Thailand March 24th election, was a shareholder on February 6th last when the Future Forward Party submitted its party list of MP candidates to the election commission.
The court accepted that Mr Thanathorn was in Bangkok on January 8th but saw no official evidence
Mr Thanthorn had argued that he disposed of the 675,000 shares in the magazine publishing company on January 8th.
The 40-year-old had submitted evidence to the court including road traffic speeding tickets to show that he had raced back to Bangkok on that day despite earlier being canvassing in Buri Ram.
The court accepted that he was in Bangkok that day but observed that there was no official evidence that the share transfer had taken place before March 21st.
Sidelined all documentation from the company
In line with this, the court sidelined all documentation in relation to the share transfer which had not been registered with the Department of Business Development.
Judges accepted that most companies only update their shareholder registers once a year as is the normal worldwide but observed firstly that in this instance, Mr Thanathorn’s political future was in peril and secondly, that the young businessman’s companies had previously updated share transfers and changes in a more timely manner.
Rejected explanation from Mr Thanathorn’s wife
The court also rejected an explanation by Mr Thanathorn’s wife Ms Rawipan that she had not cashed the cheque paid by Mr Thaththorn’s mother Ms Somporn for the shares for ฿6.75 million until May 16th, over 4 months since the cheque was purportedly issued and also on the day the ElectionsCommission brought the case against Mr Thanathorn to court.
Ms Rawipan had explained that she had just given birth to a baby and this caused the delay
Mr Thanathorn, like many Thai men, had told the court that his wife handled all the family’s financial affairs.
However, the court observed, that on previous occasions, Mr Thanathorn had normally lodged cheques for over ฿3 million to his bank account in under 45 days.
Found the 40-year-old politician in breach of Article 42 and 98 of the Thai constitution
The Constitutional Court referred to the constitutional provisions under Article 42 and 98 of the Thai constitution in addition to the electoral law governing the election.
The charter provisions were designed to prohibit any politician exercising the power of the media to unfair advantage.
The provisions were seen as part of the reform movement to clean up politics which influenced many aspects of the 2017 constitution.
The court concluded that Mr Thanathorn was a shareholder of the company and consequently disqualified his candidacy filed in February and therefore his subsequent election as an MP.
Thanathorn may be exposed to further legal jeopardy
The decision leaves the Future Forward leader now exposed to further action.
First, there is the possibility that the Election Commission may move to bar him from politics following the breach of the constitution and the electoral law.
He may also face criminal prosecution.
Thanathorn accused commission of malfeasance
Earlier his week, the Future Forward leader had initiated legal moves accusing the election commission of malfeasance under the 2017 Election Commission Act and Section 157 of the Thai criminal code for hastily bringing the case against him to the court even before a fact-finding panel set up by it had reported.
More complaints against the radical political leader
The embattled party leader is facing a host of other threatened suits and accusations.
Thanathorn and his party are seen by many conservative elements as a threat to Thailand’s natural order and conservative ethos.
The new political party, for its part, has repeatedly pointed out that it both supports the Thai monarchy and the country itself.
However, it has insisted, even in the week running up to today’s decision, that the country needs a radical shift in thinking and a more progressive approach to politics and issues.
Reaffirmed his wife’s role in the family as the money manager, pledges to continue political fight
After today’s decision, the Future Forward leader himself reaffirmed that his wife handles his personal financial affairs and that the decision on how to handle cheques was a family matter.
He accepted the decision of the court, however, and pledged to continue his political role outside parliament as his party pushes a parliamentary bill to end military conscription.
Future Forward does not lose an MP
The disqualification of the Future Forward Party leader does not affect the party’s number for MPs as the next candidate down on the party list will now be deemed elected following the disqualification of Mr Thanathorn’s original candidacy.