Move Forward Party (MFP) leader Pita Limjaroenrat has found himself in an even tighter spot concerning his ownership of media shares while running in a national election, as he recently admitted to holding shares in iTV as executor of his father’s estate — before then transferring them to other relatives in a bid to avoid more legal complications.
The controversy began just days before Thailand’s election, when political activist Ruangkrai Leekitwattana lodged a complaint with the Election Commission, seeking a Constitutional Court ruling on whether Pita had violated a provision of the Thai charter that forbids anyone who holds shares in or owns a media company from seeking to take part in an election to parliament. Ruangkrai alleged that Pita held 42,000 shares in long-defunct broadcaster ITV Pcl and argued that such ownership was grounds for disqualification.
In response, Pita downplayed the issue, calling the complaint a politically motivated effort to hinder Move Forward’s rise. He said he was legally prepared to clarify the issue if summoned by the Election Commission. Pita also said he didn’t own the shares but only managed them as part of an estate left behind by his father, who passed away in 2006.
After Pita’s party beat pre-election expectations and won the most seats in the May 14 vote, Ruangkrai didn’t stop. He kept filing what he claimed to be more evidence that showed Pita violated the charter. Meanwhile, the Election Commission remained largely silent on whether it would accept or dismiss the complaints.
Last week saw a shift in Pita’s tone when he announced he had transferred the ITV shares to another family member. That move, he said, wasn’t an admission of guilt but meant to pre-empt what he called efforts to “revive” ITV to be an active media company in order to disqualify him.
As the case continues to unfold, all eyes will be on the Constitutional Court as it weighs the evidence and decides on Mr. Limjaroenrat’s fate.
Featured Photo: Prachatai, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons