Bangkok – Thailand’s Constitutional Court stripped a rising politician of his seat in parliament Wednesday after finding him guilty of breaching election laws by owning media company shares, a decision he considers politically motivated and based on assumptions.
Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of Thailand’s Future Forward Party, was stripped of his position for holding shares in V-Luck Media Company when he was presented as a Member of Parliament candidate earlier this year, the court ruled in a seven to nine decision.
“There are grounds to believe that the accused (Thanathorn) was a shareholder of V-Luck Media Company, which was still in operation on Feb. 6, 2019, the day Future Forward Party submitted a list of MP candidates to the accuser (the Commission Election),” the verdict read.
Thanathorn – who disputes this version and insists he sold the shares in January – will still be allowed to lead his party and contest future elections.
“The arguments that the court used to decide on my case are based on assumptions. There is no scientific fact that can disprove the evidence we had previously presented,” he told the press following the verdict. “There are more facts which could be found in our documents, but the court did not see them as something important. They only gave priority to their own assumptions.”
The politician said he would continue working and that there was still lots to do, adding that he wasn’t worried about the party being dissolved over other cases pending against it.
Rights groups decried Wednesday’s decision, saying it demonstrated the country is unprepared for free and fair polls.
“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,” said Charles Santiago, Malaysian MP and chair of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).
Santiago further said Future Forward had been targeted by what are supposedly independent institutions and that the decision demonstrated the status quo’s fear of the newborn party, which came third in March’s general elections and established itself as a driving political force.
Thanathorn, 40, is one of the most vocal critics of the last military junta, which current Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha headed from 2014 to 2019. The ultra-monarchist general has cracked down harshly on any dissenting voice.
However, Prayuth was elected prime minister this year by a coalition of parties after elections criticized for their irregularities and lack of transparency.
Thanathorn has further fueled his argument that charges against him are politically motivated by saying that at least 32 parliament members of the ruling government party also allegedly had media shares but hadn’t been suspended.
Thailand has suffered 13 coups since the abolition of absolute monarchy in 1932 and the army has exerted great influence on the country’s politics, which in the last decade have been agitated by waves of anti-government demonstrations. EFE-EPA
Thailand beefed up around the meeting venue for the 35th ASEAN Summit on Friday (November 1) as leaders from the Southeast Asian and other regional countries are set to gather for annual talks.
Various roads surrounding the meeting’s main venue in central Nonthaburi Province were already closed off by Thursday (October 31). The meeting is scheduled to kick off from November 2. Around 17,000 security officials were said to be deployed to oversee safety at the ASEAN Summit, according to local media.
The United States has downgraded its participation in back-to-back Asia-Pacific summits in Bangkok, a move bound to disappoint Asian partners worried by China’s expanding influence.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is confirmed to attend the Bangkok meet, while the United States has yet to announce any representative more senior than Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell.
Other issues that may figure at the Southeast Asian summit include the standoff between China and several regional states over its sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea, as well as Myanmar’s treatment of Muslim Rohingya after a military crackdown drove more than 700,000 into Bangladesh in 2017. — REUTERS
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is set to fly to Thailand this week to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, an official from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.
In a pre-departure briefing in Malacañang on Monday, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for the Office of ASEAN Affairs Junever Mahilum-West said the ASEAN Summit in Thailand will be held from November 2 to 4.
The Summit Plenary will start on November 2, Saturday while the opening ceremony will be held on November 3, Sunday.
Mahilum-West said Duterte is expected to talk about the long-delayed code of conduct (COC) in the South China Sea when he participates in the ASEAN Plus Three Summit and the East Asia Summit.
Leaders attending in this meeting are expected to share their views regarding regional and international issues affecting the region.
The COC will be featured in the discussions, Mahilum-West said, describing the issue as “unavoidable.” The discussion on the COC falls within the ASEAN’s three pillars of cooperation: political security, economic, and socio-cultural.
“Kasi doon sa meeting na ‘yun ng mga leaders, they will have a parang tour of the horizon of what’s happening throughout the region,” she said, adding other countries are also expected to give their views.
“But as to intensive negotiations, we don’t expect that will happen in this meeting— in these kinds of meetings,” she added.
Duterte will also discuss the current direction of the country’s partnerships and cooperation on mutual concerns with China, India, the United Nations, the United States, and Japan during the ASEAN one-on-one summits.
Mahilum-West said there are about 40 anticipated outcome documents at the end of the 35th ASEAN Summit, which represent the culmination of the community’s work in pursuit of a more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable ASEAN Community.
Duterte is scheduled to leave for Thailand on November 1, Friday. He will be accompanied by DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista.
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