Thai court disqualifies opposition leader as MP

Thai court disqualifies opposition leader as MP
Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit (centre arrives at the Constitutional Court in Bangkok. (AP pic

BANGKOK: Thailand’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday disqualified outspoken opposition party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit as a member of parliament after finding him guilty of violating election law.

Thanathorn, 40, the leader of the progressive Future Forward Party, has emerged as one of the most prominent opponents of a government headed by former junta ruler Prayuth Chan-ocha after the new opposition party came a surprise third in an election in March.

The Constitutional Court found Thanathorn guilty of holding shares in a media company after registering his candidacy for the election to formally end five years of military rule.

In its ruling, the court said the evidence against Thanathorn outweighed that in his favour.

Thanathorn had denied the accusation, saying he transferred his shares before beginning the campaign.

Thanathorn has been a fierce critic of the army’s involvement in politics and did particularly well among young voters in the election from which the pro-military party was declared the winner after a disputed ballot count.

Ahead of the court ruling Thanathorn thanked supporters at the court and said: “The Future Forward Party is a journey … All of us will continue fighting and keep moving forward.

Future Forward is part of an opposition alliance that disputed the vote count and accused the army of writing the electoral rules to ensure that Prayuth, the former military leader, would remain as prime minister.

The court had earlier suspended Thanathorn from parliament pending the verdict to this case.

Thanathorn’s party won 80 out of 500 available seats in the Lower House of the Thai parliament.

The Future Forward leader also faces two criminal charges, one for computer crime for a speech he posted on Facebook criticising the junta last year, and another for sedition for allegedly aiding anti-junta protesters in 2015.