Rising Thai political star faces fresh legal woes after election

Billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit heads up the Future Forward Party, which came out of nowhere to amass more than 6 million votes in the March 24 vote.
Billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit heads up the Future Forward Party, which came out of nowhere to amass more than 6 million votes in the March 24 vote.PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (AFP) -  The telegenic leader of a Thai political party who rode to prominence during last month’s election on a wave of millennial support stands accused of inciting unrest, he said Wednesday (April 3), calling his latest legal woes “politically motivated” by the junta.

Billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit heads the youth-oriented Future Forward Party, which came out of nowhere to amass more than six million votes in the March 24 vote, the first election since a 2014 coup.

Future Forward has joined an anti-junta coalition with six other parties claiming the right to form a government in the aftermath of the disputed vote, whose full results will not be ratified until May 9.

But the fierce anti-junta critic said on Facebook that he has now been summoned to appear at a Bangkok police station on Saturday (April 6) to hear incitement charges against him which carry a maximum sentence of seven years.

He called it "an old political game" that he expected to intensify after the party's strong election showing.

Speaking to reporters later Wednesday, Thanathorn hit back at the junta government, which filed the complaint.

“It is not the Future Forward Party which causes divisiveness of the people but the military who wants to hold on to power,” he said.

“I am calling for a restoration of democracy in Thailand... these cases are politically motivated.”

Police investigator Charoensit Jongitthi said there were two charges in total that related to Thanathorn’s actions in 2015, though he would not elaborate.  “That is what I can say for now,” he told Agence France-Presse. 

Police investigator Charoensit Jongitthi said there were two charges in total and they related back to Mr Thanathorn's actions in 2015, though he would not elaborate.

 
 
 
 

"That is what I can say for now," he told AFP

Mr Thanathorn is already facing another case under Thailand's Computer Crimes Act for allegedly spreading false information when he criticised the junta government in a Facebook live discussion last year.

Future Forward is a key member of the anti-junta political coalition led by Pheu Thai, the party linked to self-exiled premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

The so-called "democratic front" says it has more than a majority of seats in the lower house, but the junta-backed Palang Pracharath Party won the popular vote.

But inconsistent counting, inaccurate figures and more than two million invalidated ballots have sowed doubt over the poll.

The party aligned with the junta has put forward 2014 coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha as its candidate for prime minister.

The former army chief is heavily favoured to secure the post thanks to a junta-scripted charter that creates an upper house of 250 appointed senators – selected by the military – who vote for the prime minister.