Thanathorn Found Guilty of Breaking Election Laws

Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit in front of the Constitutional Court on Nov. 20, 2019.

BANGKOK — A court on Wednesday convicted opposition leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit on charges of violating voting laws, stripping him of his lawmaker status.

Thanathorn, who leads the upstart Future Forward Party, was found guilty of owning shares in a media firm when he registered to run in the March 24 poll. However, the court stopped short of banning the 40-year-old politico from running for office in the future, and did not hand down any jail term as his supporters feared.

The complaint was brought forward to the Constitutional Court by the Election Commission, who accused the billionaire-turned-politician of violating a law that bans MP contenders from owning shares in media companies.

Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit in front of the Constitutional Court on Nov. 20, 2019.

Although Thanathorn testified to the court he already sold the shares in the firm – called V-Luck Media – on Jan. 8 as required by the law, the judges said there was no concrete evidence of the transfer, resulting in a guilty verdict.

The Constitutional Court subsequently stripped him of his MP status, retroactively effective since May 23, when it first agreed to hear the case against him and suspended his parliamentary role.

Thanathorn’s now-vacated seat was passed on to Manop Keereepuwadol, the 53rd named contender in the Future Forward’s party list quota.

His supporters reacted to the news with anger and disappointment, but many took heart from the fact that he was spared from any jail term or political ban, the maximum penalty enshrined in the election laws.

“The result is much better than I expected,” user ThebestJK666 tweeted. “Since he’s not barred from politics, he can keep up the fight.”

There was no immediate call for any demonstration by party supporters. The government previously warned the party against a protest, saying it could result in legal repercussions.