Pita cleared in media shareholding case, returns to parliament

The Constitutional Court has ruled that former Move Forward Party (MFP) leader and its only PM candidate Pita Limjaroenrat is not guilty in the iTV media shareholding case, allowing him to return to parliament.

The court stated that the law bans a politician from holding shares in a media company and holding even a single share is considered too many. Although the shares were a family legacy and he was only the executor of the estate, the court viewed Pita as entitled to the legacy and he therefore is deemed to be a shareholder. However, the company no longer holds a license to operate as a television broadcaster and has not operated as a media company since 2007. As a result, Pita is not guilty and can return to parliament as an MP.

Regarding the disputed ownership of media shares, Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a former Palang Pracharath party-list candidate, filed a petition with the Election Commission (EC) on 10 May 2023, saying that Pita held 42,000 shares in iTV, a defunct television company. The EC subsequently submitted a petition to the Constitutional Court for a ruling on the case.

Pita said that he inherited the shares from his late father and was holding them as the executor of his father’s will. He has since transferred them to other beneficiaries. However, Pita was suspended temporarily from his parliamentary duties on 19 July 2023 on the order of the Constitutional Court after it accepted the EC petition.

After the court delivered its verdict, Pita said at a press briefing that the party would further discuss with the House Speaker when he could return to parliament. He said he would now focus on the next step of his work that needs to be done, particularly the strategic roadmap of the party.

Meanwhile, Deputy House Speaker Padipat Santhiphada later confirmed that Pita could officially return to parliament at the time he was acquitted. Parliament has now 500 MPs as usual.

Next week, the Constitutional Court will also decide whether the MFP election campaign proposal to amend Section 112, the royal defamation law, constitutes an attempt to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the king as a head of state. Pita expressed confidence in the legal basis for their case and the party’s legal team.

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) released a statement in response to today’s Court decision, saying that they are encouraged by the court’s decision to reject ‘the clearly politically-motivated petition’ and reaffirm Pita’s seat in parliament. The statement also calls for the government to conduct a review of the current junta-drafted constitution and amend it to pave the way for true democracy in Thailand.

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