Update 1: Adds Pita quotes before leaving chamber, changes headline
Bangkok, Jul 19 (EFE).- Thai Prime Ministerial candidate Pita Limjaroenrat left parliament Wednesday after being temporarily suspended as a parliamentarian over an investigation into his ownership of media shares.
“I trust all my fellow deputies to use the parliamentary system to take care of the people,” said the leader of progressive party Move Forward, which unexpectedly won the May 14 election with 14 million votes.
“Thailand has changed since May 14. The people have won half the battle (in the elections), there is still the other half left. Although I have not been able to do my duty, I ask my colleagues to continue to care for the citizens,” the politician said before leaving his seat to comply with the court order.
Amid hugs with his party members and with other leaders of the opposition coalition, which along with seven other parties has a large majority in the elected House of Representatives, Pita left the chamber raising his arm in a gesture of protest.
Thailand’s Constitutional Court announced Wednesday it is accepting a complaint against Pita, and suspended him pending the investigation.
The decision was announced in full session of the bicameral parliament that plans to vote Wednesday on Pita’s candidacy for prime minister.
Despite the suspension, Pita may be nominated for the post because under Thai law the president is not required to be part of the legislature.
The court’s decision is linked to the investigation into whether Pita knowingly failed to comply with the conditions to register as a parliamentary candidate due to the possession of shares in a communication company, prohibited by electoral rules.
The complaint, raised last week by the Electoral Commission, focuses on 42,000 titles of the iTV channel, which represent 0.0035 percent of the total shares of this chain closed in 2007, which the politician administered as part of the family trust after the death of his father in 2006.
Pita now has 15 days to present his defense, but the court’s final decision does not have a set period.
If the court finds Pita guilty, he could face a punishment of up to 10 years in prison and 20 years of political disqualification.
Meanwhile, the 500 elected members of the Thai House of Representatives and the 250 senators, handpicked in 2019 by the former military junta, plan to vote for the second time on Pita’s candidacy to lead the executive.
Last Thursday, the candidate failed to reach a simple majority in the bicameral vote, mainly due to the senate’s blockade.
Move Forward, the party led by Pita that won the recent elections with 14 million votes, has among its electoral promises to reform a law that criminalizes criticism toward the monarchy, something the vast majority of the senate rejects. EFE