Thai court reinstates reformist PM candidate Pita as lawmaker


Submitting evidence for the case in December, Pita told reporters outside court he was “confident” he would receive justice.

He reiterated in an interview with AFP late last year that he would take another tilt at the premiership, saying he was “not giving up”.

The Constitutional Court case revolves around shares in the long-defunct ITV television station, which Pita says he inherited from his father when he died. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Following the verdict, the Election Commission could refer Pita to the Supreme Court under a new charge where he could face a jail term of up to 10 years, as well as a political ban.

ESTABLISHMENT FIGHTBACK

Pita’s case bears similarities to a 2019 case, when popular progressive Thai politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit was disqualified as an MP for holding media shares.

Thanathorn’s Future Forward party, the predecessor of the MFP, was later dissolved by the courts in a separate case which led to massive pro-democracy demonstrations.

During the 2023 election campaign, Pita re-energised young and urban Thais exhausted after the dwindling protest movement and weary of a near-decade of military rule.

Mostly written off by commentators, MFP surprised the establishment when they beat the Pheu Thai party of veteran political playmaker and former premier Thaksin Shinawatra into second place in May.

MFP’s pledges to reform Thailand’s strict royal insult laws, as well as plans to break up business monopolies and take on the military’s influence in politics, spurred the kingdom’s elites into action behind the scenes.

Pita was blocked by senators – appointed by the last junta – from becoming prime minister, and Pheu Thai formed a coalition that included pro-military parties but shut MFP out of government.

Educated in Thailand and at Harvard, the former Grab executive was drawn into politics in 2018 when he joined Future Forward. He stepped down as MFP leader in September.

Another challenge looms for his former party next week when the Constitutional Court will consider a petition arguing that the MFP’s pledge to reform lese-majeste laws amounted to an attempt to overthrow the democratic government with the king as a head of state.



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