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The Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) is filing a petition with the Constitutional Court seeking the disqualification of former Move Forward Party (MFP) MP Nakornchai Khunnarong on the grounds that he ran in the 2023 general election knowing that he was ineligible.

Nakornchai Khunnarong

Several local news outlets, including Matichon Online, the Thai News Agency, and Isra News reported on 5 April that a document was published on the ECT’s website stating its decision to seek Nakornchai’s disqualification.

The document, dated to 6 February 2024 and signed by ECT Chair Ittiporn Boonprakong, stated that the ECT believes that Nakornchai ran in the election knowing that he was ineligible because he had served a prison sentence for theft.

The document notes that Nakornchai told the ECT that because it was 25 years ago, he could not remember the details of the case except that he was charged with receiving stolen property. He also said that he believes he was eligible to run in the election because his criminal record was erased under the 2007 Absolution Act, which expunged the criminal records of those who had completed their prison sentences.

The ECT said, however, that it believes Nakornchai knew he was ineligible and still ran in the election on the grounds that the Absolution Act only erases a person’s criminal record but not the verdict against them. It also said that, as a candidate, Nakornchai was responsible for ensuring that he is eligible. The ECT therefore decided to petition the Constitutional Court to disqualify him from running in an election. After a ruling is made, the ECT may file a criminal charge against him and hold him accountable for the cost of organizing the by-election in his Constituency.    

Nakornchai, who was elected as MP for Rayong’s 3rd Constituency, resigned on 3 August 2023, after Sereepisuth Temeeyaves, leader of the Thai Liberal Party, disclosed that he had been previously sentenced to prison for theft, which made him ineligible to run under the election law.

Nakornchai admitted that he was jailed for theft in 1999, when he was 20 years old. He said he was partying with friends and noticed a wristwatch on a table. He picked it up and asked around for its owner. After the police arrived, his friend confessed to stealing the watch while he denied it. He was nonetheless taken into custody and given a confession to sign. He was later sentenced to 1 year and 6 months in prison.

In his resignation announcement, he said that he believes the crime for which he was convicted does not disqualify him from running and insisted that he did not know he was ineligible.

A by-election took place following Nakornchai’s resignation, in which the MFP candidate Pongsathon Sornphetnarin won against a depleted field.

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