Domestic Violence Allegations Stalk Thanathorn’s Successor

Pita Limcharoenrut, performing a wai in the middle, unveils Move Forward Party on March 8, 2020.

BANGKOK — The leader of a surrogate party for the disbanded Future Forward on Wednesday declined to discuss the allegations of domestic violence against his ex-wife.

Despite calls from women rights activists for him to clear the air, Pita “Tim” Limcharoenrut, MP and the appointed leader of the Move Forward Party, would only speak out on the allegations after the registration of his party is completed, according to his aide.

“It’s still not inconvenient for [Pita] to give an interview,” a member of the party’s publicity team said on Wednesday. “Please wait until he is done with registering with the [new] party and on that day he will hold a formal press conference on the matter.”

Pita – who unveiled his party on International Women’s Day – is accused by his then-wife, actress Chutima “Tye” Teepanart, of asserting obsessive control over her life when the two were married.

In an interview in October 2019 to Khaosod’s Thai edition, Chutima said Pita forbid her from having male and gay friends, and once instructed her to prostate (graab) to him in apology for mentioning that Hollywood star Rober Downey Jr. was handsome.

Chutima also said she discovered a GPS tracking device placed in her car without her knowledge, which she suspected to be a work of Pita.

In another interview with GMM25, Chutima said Pita “grew jealous when I played a role which involved holding hands. After that, more rules emerged, including one that banned me from coming home later than 6pm. Not even business appointments were exempted.”

The actress later sued Pita for physical assault at the juvenile and family court, though the judge dismissed the case on May 22, saying the degree of action involved did not qualify as domestic violence.

But that did not stop women rights advocates and pro-democracy activists from urging Pita to come clean over the matter.

“They might be something Thai society isn’t familiar with yet, but it’s mental abuse,” campaigner Pimsiri Petchchamrob wrote in a public Facebook post, which attracted over 250 comments as of publication time.

“How can the party ensure gender equality or justice when the person leading it cannot practice it in real life?” former human rights lawyer Busayapa Srisompong said in an interview.

A founding member of the Future Forward was also among those who demanded an explanation from Pita. Wipaphan “Nana” Wongsawang said supporters of Pita should not dismiss the allegations as false just because a court dismissed the case.

“As the leader of a new party, how can he explain his stance on social fairness?” Wipaphan, who runs advocacy group Thai Consent, wrote online. “How can you defend people who suffer domestic violence when they don’t have big names, media, reputation, and access to fairness?”

“Are we really accepting a man who used violence against women and held a prejudice against women have a voice and leading role in democracy camp?” LGBT rights activist Aum Neko wrote in a Facebook post.

Pita and Chutima filed for divorce in March 2019. They have one child together; per a court decision, Pita currently has the custody of the child.

Additional reporting Teeranai Charuvastra