BANGKOK (Bangkok Post) – The Constitutional Court on Monday threw out a request by Future Forward Party (FFP) leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit to extend the deadline to submit his defence against a media-shareholding charge by 15 days.
According to a source, the court rejected the extension request on the basis that it had already granted a 30-day extension to Mr Thanathorn early this month, which would give him a total of 45 days, or until July 8, to work on his defence.
Mr Thanathorn’s legal team lodged their petition seeking to extend the deadline by another 15 days on Thursday.
The FFP is fighting the accusation that he held shares in V-Luck Media Co when he registered as an MP candidate in early February – a breach of Section 98(3) of the constitution, which bars owners and/or shareholders of media and/or publishing firms from running as MPs.
He has strongly denied the charge and insisted he and his wife transferred their shares to his mother on Jan 8, before the candidacy registration for the March 24 poll opened in early February. He has been suspended from parliament pending the court’s ruling.
The media-shareholding rule has since been thrust into the spotlight with almost 100 MPs facing similar probes.
In the latest development, the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) will this week lodge a petition against 55 opposition MPs for allegedly being involved in media businesses.
Forty-one government MPs, including 27 from the PPRP, are also accused by the opposition of breaching the rule. The cases have been forwarded to the Constitutional Court for a ruling.
A source in the PPRP said on Monday that of the 55 opposition MPs facing eligibility reviews, 33 are from the FFP, 10 are from Pheu Thai, four belong to Puea Chat, four are from Seri Ruam Thai, two are from Prachachat, and one each come from the New Economics Party and Palang Puangchon Chaothai.
According to the same source, 10 other FFP MPs have been found to be shareholders or partners in companies which changed the business objectives specified in memorandums of association prior to the poll.
If the Constitutional Court decides to suspend those facing review, the House of Representatives will be missing almost 100 MPs.
The media-shareholding row has also now reached the Senate after Pheu Thai’s legal expert Ruangkrai Leekitwattana on Monday petitioned the Election Commission (EC) to probe 21 senators’ shareholdings.
Among those accused were Wanchai Sornsiri, Gen Pairote Panitsamai, Pikulkaew Krairiksh, and Yutthana Thapcharoen.
Mr Wanchai on Monday insisted he met the legal requirements and pledged to file both civil and criminal lawsuits against Mr Ruangkrai.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam on Monday gave assurances that the Lower House would function normally even if those MPs were suspended from parliamentary duty.
Mr Wissanu pointed out that the case against an FFP candidate in Sakon Nakhon province, Phubet Henlod, could not be used as a precedent because it was an individual case, unlike the Constitutional Court ruling.
Mr Phubet was disqualified by the Supreme Court in March for a media shareholding in a limited partnership, Mars Engineering & Service Partnership Ltd.
The court ruled that just the mention of media activity in a firm’s memorandum of association is enough to classify it as a media company.