Constitutional Court orders investigation of 32 MPs in media share row

The Thai Constitutional Court has agreed to accept a petition against 32 MPs from the military-aligned coalition over alleged media share holdings. But the Court has allowed the MPs to continue their parliamentary duties. This dispensation was not offered to anti-junta politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit from the opposition Future Forward Party who is being investigated over the same allegations.

The court said this case was different from that of Thanathorn, in whose case the junta-appointed Election Commission had already conducted an initial investigation to confirm wrongdoing before the case was forwarded to the court.

The Constitutional Court reasons that the 32 MPs should not be suspended because it was still unclear if the businesses in which they had invested could in fact be considered media.

There was no committee investigating the 32 new cases before they were submitted to the court, the judges said, adding since the matter was still unclear, the MPs should not be suspended from their parliamentary duties.

Nine other MPs who had also been subject to complaints for possibly breaching the Constitution by holding media shares, were spared in yesterday’s decision. The court turned down the petition to examine their cases. The MPs spared included six from Palang Pracharat and three from the Democrats.

The court said its examination of the documents presented by the plaintiff showed that the companies in which these nine MPs had invested had no objective to run a newspaper or any type of media business.

The total of 41 MPs, like Thanathorn, had been accused of holding shares in media companies. The petition had been filed by Future Forward MPs through the parliamentary mechanism and submitted to the Constitutional Court with endorsement by House Speaker Chuan Leekpai.

The 2017 Constitution prohibits shareholdings in media companies for MPs and MP candidates. Violation of the rule is punishable with disqualification of the MP, imprisonment and fine, as well as a 20-year ban from politics.

The court’s decision to allow the embattled MPs to continue their work in the lower house favours the pro-junta bloc, which has only a slim majority over its rival bloc. If the Palang Pracharat MPs had been suspended from their duties any lower house vote, including a vote of no confidence, would have been lost by the pro-Junta government.

SOURCE: The Nation

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