Thai Opposition Leader Convicted, Disqualified From Parliament

KUALA LUMPUR – A Thai court Wednesday convicted opposition party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit of holding shares in a media company while running for office, an election law breach that disqualifies the rising star of the country’s pro-democracy movement from Parliament.

The Constitutional Court ruled that the lawmaker and Future Forward party leader had failed to offload his shares in V-Luck Media before registering to run in the general election Thailand held on March 24, its first poll after five years of military rule.

Thanathorn denies any wrongdoing and has called the case politically motivated, engineered by the pro-military government that clawed its way to power after a tainted and inconclusive election.

Following today’s verdict, Future Forward spokeswoman Pannika Wanich dismissed speculation the ruling put the party itself at risk.

“It doesn’t affect the party or his political work because Thanathorn stays as party leader and as [our] prime ministerial candidate, so the party’s work continues within the Parliament and outside the Parliament,” she told VOA.

Pannika would not comment on whether justice was served, however, for fear of landing the party in more legal trouble.

“According to the law I cannot comment on the verdict, but I think … everyone in Thailand, after they listen to the court’s reasoning, they can judge [for] themselves whether there is justice or not in the case,” she said.

Thanathorn also could face up to 10 years in jail and a 20-year ban from politics if the Election Commission now forwards the case to a criminal court.

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), a group of current and former lawmakers from across Southeast Asia, condemned the verdict in a statement.

Today’s ruling is another indication that despite the holding of elections this year, Thai authorities are not ready for an open and free democracy, Charles Santiago, a Malaysian lawmaker and APHR chairman, was quoted saying.

This case must be looked at in a wider context whereby opposition MPs and parties, and specifically the Future Forward party, have been singled out by Thailand’s so-called independent institutions. All signs point to a coordinated attempt to silence a party that has threatened the status quo in its pursuit of constitutional reform, he added.

Future Forward burst onto the political scene with the March election, finishing a strong third in the popular vote. By pushing a progressive platform of LGBT rights, ending conscription, slashing defense spending and snipping the military’s political privileges out of the Constitution, it captured a tidy share of the youth vote, much of it in the capital Bangkok.

Source: Voice of America

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