BANGKOK: The combative Ms Pannika gave a detailed account of her claims which were featured in online videos yesterday circulated on Twitter and Facebook in which she claimed to detail links to Thai authorities from the massive 1DB scandal and $4.5 billion fraud which has led to a former Malaysian prime minister facing criminal charges after his shock election defeat in 2018.

Thai police are looking closely at sensational claims made by former Future Forward MP and spokeswoman Pannika Wanich on Sunday in which she attacked the Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha and his governments. Ms Pannika linked Thai authorities with the gigantic Malaysian 1DB fraud which helped trigger the unexpected downfall of former Malaysian Premier Najib Razak in 2018.

Former Future Forward MP Pannika Wanich (left) on Sunday made disturbing and sensational claims about Malaysia’s 1DB fraud scandal linked with former Malaysian PM Najib Razak (inset top centre) and possible links to Thai government agencies as she criticised the leadership of the present government. Today, a spokesman for the Royal Thai Police Police, Lieutenant General Piya Uthayo (bottom centre), said that the comments made by Ms Pannika initially appear to be both false and distorted. He confirmed that legal officers have been instructed by the national police chief to review the statements made and to consider whether action should be taken. In a separate statement, the government spokeswoman, Narumon Pinyosinwat (inset right), has described the claims as ‘groundless’ and confirmed that the government was considering legal action.

Legal eagles within the Royal Thai Police are pouring over the details of a controversial one and half hour presentation made by former Future Forward spokeswoman and MP on Sunday which was aired to hundreds of thousands of people online and shared through social media including Twitter.

32 year Ms Pannika is one of 16 executive members of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party who was automatically barred from politics on Friday including the loss of her status as a member of parliament when the Constitutional Court dissolved the radical new political party which won 81 seats in the March 24th 2019 general election.

The court upheld a complaint and recommendation from the Election Commission regarding a ฿191 million made to the party by its billionaire founder and leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. 

Senior Future Forward leader and now former MP

Ms Pannika has long been known for her combative style in parliament and was seen as a key Future Forward leader alongside Mr Thanathorn and the other party co-founder Piyabutr Saengkanokkul. She is a graduate of Chulalongkorn University and holds a masters degree from the London School of Economics.

Presentation using a montage of photographs

On Sunday, the political firebrand in a presentation, featuring a montage of photographs, questioned the performance of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha and his two governments since the coup of 2014. 

Highlighted links to Malaysian 1DB $4.5 billion fraud scandal’s links to Thailand and authorities

She specifically, however, made sensational claims about the 1DB scandal in Malaysia which is accepted to have contributed to the sudden downfall of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2018 and his subsequent arrest and trial.

The complicated story involved reports that up to $4.5 billion were siphoned from the Malaysian government and laundered before hundreds if millions reappeared in Mr Razak’s bank account.

Along the way, the funds were linked to the production of the iconic Hollywood movie, the Wolf of Wall Street.

On Sunday, Ms Pannika linked Thailand’s government to the scandal. The former MP made a slew of serious allegations against both Thai and Chinese authorities.

Thai assistant police chief confirmed that police legal officers are studying Ms Pannika’s claims

On Monday, assistant police chief, Police Lieutenant General Piya Uthayo, confirmed that the details of Ms Pannikas’ presentation were now being scrutinised by the legal department of the Royal Thai Police.

Officers are trying to determine if the now self-styled political activist has committed a breach of Thai law by making the claims that she has made.

Preliminary view – claims are ‘distorted and false’

The senior police officer and spokesman made it clear that the statements by the former politician appeared to implicate not only senior officials with the Thai government but also the government itself and important state agencies.

He highlighted the potential damage caused by the situation saying that the credibility of the Thai government could be compromised which could have repercussions, not least, in sowing distrust among the public at a critical time.

‘From a preliminary examination, the statement was found to contain distorted and false information,’ Lieutenant General Piya also told the press.

Deputy PM says he does not know where the information Ms Pannika presented comes from

Thailand’s canny and influential Deputy Prime Minister, Prawit Wongsuwan, on Monday also answered media questions about yesterday’s extraordinary comments by the former Future Forward MP.

He confirmed that the government was taking the matter seriously and was considering taking legal action against Ms Pannika.

He said the government agencies were currently monitoring the situation. ‘We can’t stop her speaking. I don’t know how she got the information,’ he disclosed to the media.

Government spokeswoman says legal action being contemplated by the against ‘groundless’ claims

Prior to the deputy prime minister’s comments, the official government spokeswoman, Narumon Pinyosinwat, issued a strong statement on yesterday’s outburst.

She described the claims made by Ms Pannika as absolutely ‘groundless’ in a series of social media posts.

Muted response so far to the dissolution of Future Forward on Friday from the Thai public

There has been a distinctly muted public response to the dissolution of the Future Forward Party since Friday. On Saturday, a few hundred protestors attended a flash mob at Thammasat University which passed off peacefully.

A senior public health official, Deputy Chief of the Disease Control Department Dr Thanarak Plipat of the Ministry of Public Health at the same time on Saturday appealed for the public. He requested that people not attend public gatherings especially such protests at this time when the kingdom is fighting a critical public health emergency.

The Thai public has also grown accustomed to such developments with 110 parties having been dissolved since political party oversight laws were first introduced in Thailand in 1997.

Mild criticism from the US Embassy and EU

The dissolution has drawn mild criticism from both the American Embassy in Washington and the European Union focusing primarily on the disenfranchised voters who voted for the radical new party last year.

The harshest criticism came from the NGO Amnesty International who called for the court’s decision to be reversed.

Public attention is currently occupied elsewhere

Public concern in Thailand, at the moment, is more concerned with the state of the economy and significantly, the threat of violence after several recent outrages and mass killings.

A Suan Dusit Poll on Sunday showed that even the Convid 19 virus is of less concern to the Thai public than these issues and the country’s chronic smog problems.

Government Palang Pracharat Party decisively won bye-election in Kamphaeng Phet against Pheu Thai

On Sunday night, the ruling Palang Pracharat Party, aligned with the Prime minister Paryut Chan ocha, won the Kamphaeng Phet bye-election decisively.

The newly-elected MP is Petchpoom Apornrat, is the son of Waipot Apornrat who is on the run after being sentenced to life imprisonment on January 15th for disrupting the ASEAN summit in 2009 when he was a redshirt activist.

The former MP was earlier sentenced to 50 years in prison for land encroachments.

Son of former on the run MP won the vote decisively

Mr Waipot even made a memorable appearance in parliament for a crucial government vote in January when no police action was taken against him.

His son, on Sunday, won the election by 45,687 votes to 37,989 for Kumpol Panyaku who represented the main opposition Pheu Thai Party. Voter turnout was reported to be slightly down on last year’s record 74%, mostly accounted for by workers not returning from other provinces.

The conclusive election result shows clearly that Thai politics is quite differently nuanced from that seen in western countries.

Future Forward activists promise to continue the political struggle as a movement called FFP

Since the fateful court ruling by the Constitutional Court on Friday, Future Forward activists, including Ms Pannika, have vowed to continue on the political struggle outside of parliament and have referenced a new movement called FFP in its place.

On Sunday, Ms Pannika vowed that she would continue as an activist to keep the promise of the political movement which obtained over 17% of the vote in the last general election in 2019.

Calls for criminal prosecutions

Meanwhile, conservative activists who had led the legal attacks on the now-dissolved party are calling on the Election Commission to pursue criminal action against the party’s former executives and leadership highlighted by the Constitutional Court last Friday. These include Ms Pannika.

Further reading:

Future Forward Party dissolved – leadership banned from politics by Constitutional Court order

Thai health boss strongly warns against public protests or political gatherings at this critical time

Constitutional court sets the real D-Day for the Future Forward Party as Friday, February 21st on loans case

Court ruling on Thanathorn shares opens other MPs to scrutiny and possible electoral law legal action