Leader of anti-military party in Thailand confident it will survive his disqualification as MP

Mr Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of Thailand's Future Forward Party, has also been charged with sedition for allegedly aiding anti-junta protesters in 2015. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK - The leader of a Thai political party known for its anti-military and progressive stance is confident it will survive even though he could be disqualified as a Member of Parliament next week, dismissing speculation that it could have a "domino effect" on his party.

"I think the party is much stronger than what it was a year ago. So I am convinced that the party is the journey. It's a long-term journey," Mr Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of Future Forward Party, told a press briefing in Bangkok on Friday (Nov 15).

Mr Thanathorn's remarks came five days ahead of the Constitutional Court's ruling on his MP status. He was suspended minutes after he was sworn in in May for allegedly violating the election law by holding shares in a media company. The Election Commission filed a motion in court to seek his disqualification.

Aside from the disqualification as an MP, he could also face up to 20 years in prison and a 20-year ban from politics.

The 40-year-old scion of a billionaire auto-parts maker insisted that V-Luck Media, a magazine publishing company in which he held 650,000 shares worth 6.75 million baht (S$303,000), had already ceased operations before the election date was announced on Jan 23 and was in the process of being closed.

Insisting on his innocence and charging that the move to seek his disqualification was politically motivated, Mr Thanathorn said he sold the shares to his mother on Jan 8.

But the share transfer was reported to the Commerce Ministry on March 21 after the election law had come into effect on Jan 23.

He said he would continue to work in politics and not return to his auto parts business even if he was disqualified.

He said: "There is no turning back. There is no Plan B. It's the dream that I have abandoned everything in my life to pursue."

"This is not about my media share ownership. My fault is to go against the prolonged influence of the NCPO."

He was referring to the National Council for Peace and Order, the military regime that ruled from the coup in 2014 until the first half of this year.

The junta was headed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who won a second term in office after the general election in March. Mr Prayut was endorsed by the pro-military Palang Pracharat Party, which managed to cobble a ruling coalition after the polls, and his nomination rubber-stamped by the military-dominated Senate.

Mr Thanathorn has also been charged with sedition for allegedly aiding anti-junta protesters in 2015. A computer crime charge against him for criticising the regime on Facebook last year was dropped last month.

"The case against me has nothing to do with the dissolution of the party. With or without me, the party's journey will go on," he added, in response to widespread concerns that his disqualification could be used by opponents to file for its dissolution.

Future Forward surprised many by winning 80 seats in the March general election, making it the third-best-performing party despite the fact that it was founded just last year and none of its members had run for office before.

It was the only party that voted against transferring two key army units to the king's direct command last month. It is unprecedented in Thailand for any party to vote against a royal matter.

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