The charismatic frontman of Thailand’s anti-military parliamentary bloc appeared in court Friday accused of breaching election rules by holding media shares, a case which could see him barred from politics and jailed for up to 10 years.
Billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, 40, has rattled the kingdom’s arch-royalist establishment since seizing the political limelight with his caustic take downs of the army’s role in Thai politics and society.
His upstart Future Forward Party became Thailand’s third largest political group in a March election which ended five years of outright junta rule.
The party was backed by millions of young people wearied by the dominance of the conservative old guard.
But Thanathorn’s electoral success has been matched by a battery of legal woes.
He has been suspended from attending parliament since the Election Commission accused him of breaking polling laws by holding media shares – an offence that carries a long jail term.
Arriving for the first hearing at the Constitutional Court on Friday, Thanathorn again pleaded his “innocence” telling reporters the media company had ceased operations five months before the election.
“We are convinced that there is no evidence,” he said.
Thanathorn, who held 675,000 shares in V-Luck Media, has repeatedly insisted they were sold to his mother on January 8 — weeks before he registered to run as a candidate.
As judges fired questions at him during Friday’s hearing, the usually cool-headed party leader appeared tense, saying he couldn’t recall the legal details of divesting the shares.