Rising Thai political star faces fresh legal woes after election

Rising Thai political star faces fresh legal woes after election

Thai tycoon Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward Party, arrives at the fffice
Thai tycoon Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward Party, arrives at the fffice of the attorney general in Bangkok AFP/Lillian SUWANRUMPHA

BANGKOK: The telegenic leader of a Thai political party who rode to prominence during last month's election on a wave of millennial support stands accused of inciting unrest, he said Wednesday (Apr 3), blaming his latest legal woes on a "dark influence".

Billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit heads up the youth-oriented Future Forward Party, which came out of nowhere to amass more than 6 million votes in the Mar 24 vote, the first since a 2014 coup.

Future Forward has joined an anti-military government coalition with six other parties claiming the right to form a government in the aftermath of a disputed vote whose full results will not be ratified until May 9.

READ: The young billionaire leading Thailand's Future Forward opposition

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But the fierce critic of the military government said on Facebook he has now been summoned to appear at a Bangkok police station Saturday to hear incitement charges against him which carry a maximum sentence of seven years.

He called it "an old political game" that he expected to intensify after the party's strong election showing.

"The dark influence will not leave Future Forward Party alone," he wrote on his page, where he posted the summons.

Police investigator Charoensit Jongitthi said there were two charges in total and they related back to Thanathorn's actions in 2015, though he would not elaborate.

READ: Who won the Thai election? Thailand's "confusing" election result explained

"That is what I can say for now," he told AFP.

Thanathorn is already facing another case under Thailand's Computer Crimes Act for allegedly spreading false information when he criticised the military government in a Facebook live discussion last year.

Future Forward is a key member of the coalition led by Pheu Thai, the party linked to self-exiled premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

The so-called "democratic front" says it has more than a majority of seats in the lower house, but the Phalang Pracharat Party, backed by the military government, won the popular vote.

But inconsistent counting, inaccurate figures and more than 2 million invalidated ballots have sowed doubt over the poll.

The party aligned with the military government has put forward 2014 coup leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha as its candidate for prime minister.

The former army chief is heavily favoured to secure the post thanks to a charter that creates an upper house of appointed senators who vote for prime minister.

The members of the 250 upper house are selected by the military.

Source: AFP/hs

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