Court upholds six-year prison sentence for former Pheu Thai MP

Image: Thai Journalists Association/Bangkok Post

The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Office yesterday upheld the guilty verdict against former Pheu Thai MP, Anurak Tungpanithanon. The panel of judges confirmed there was no justification to overturn the original bribery ruling.

Anurak, formerly representing Mukdahan, faces six years in prison for soliciting a 5-million-baht bribe from then-Chief of the Groundwater Resources Department (GRD) Sakda Wichiansilp, in exchange, Anurak promised to approve funding for several GRD projects.

In 2020, Anurak served on a subcommittee reviewing the budget bill and another overseeing water resources projects for government agencies. GRD projects required endorsement from both panels before implementation.

The court’s decision is final, as cases under this division are tried at two levels: primary and appellate.

Anurak was present in court yesterday, July 9, and was immediately taken to prison following the verdict. He was accompanied by the PM’s Deputy Secretary-General, Somkid Chuakong.

The primary level ruling, delivered on April 25, 2023, was based on evidence and testimony from key witness Sakda, who confirmed that Anurak demanded the bribe to approve the GRD’s ground-well projects.

Abuse of power

Anurak was convicted of abusing his authority for personal gain and sentenced to six years in prison. Additionally, he was dismissed from his MP position on April 19, 2022, when the court accepted the case against him. Anurak is also banned from contesting elections or holding political office for life, and prohibited from voting for 10 years.

Previously, Anurak was charged by the National Anti-Corruption Commission for violating ethical standards. Although found guilty by the Supreme Court, he was initially granted bail with a 1 million baht guarantee.

The case gained public attention in 2020 when Sakda revealed the bribery demand during a subcommittee meeting on August 5. Sakda reported that Anurak persistently questioned GRD projects and refused to accept explanations. Sakda also accused Anurak of calling him the night before the meeting to demand the bribe.

Subsequently, Sakda held a press conference, leading to an investigation and lawsuit against the former Pheu Thai MP, claiming Anurak demanded either 5 million baht in cash or project contracts from the department, but Sakda refused to comply.

Despite Anurak’s defence that he called Sakda for project documents, the court rejected this claim, stating such tasks could be handled by the panel’s secretary. The judges also considered phone records confirming the call and testimony from Sakda’s colleagues, who corroborated the bribery allegations.

Ultimately, the court concluded that the evidence sufficiently demonstrated Anurak’s abuse of authority to demand a bribe, resulting in the upheld conviction, reported The Nation.

Crime NewsThailand News

Ryan Turner

Ryan is a journalism student from Mahidol University with a passion for history, writing and delivering news content with a rich storytelling narrative.

Related Articles