Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, a former film director and transgender, is the only MP among 64 to be disqualified for holding shares in a media-related company, which is forbidden to MP candidates.
The verdict announced on 28 October states that Tanwarin held shares in 2 filmmaking companies before registering to run for MP. The Court also stated that her conduct was similar to Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward Party, who was also disqualified for holding shares in a media company.
Tanwarin is deemed unqualified for her MP position as of 6 February 2019, the registration date for party-list MP candidates with the Election Commission.
The verdict has tipped the balance of power in parliament even more toward the Palang Pracharat Party-led coalition (PPRP). As the Move Forward Party (MFP) is a replacement for the dissolved Future Forward Party, a party-list MP candidate for a dissolved party is not allowed to replace Tanwarin. The MFP has no party list and so no replacement.
Cases against 63 other lawmakers, 29 from ruling parties and 28 from opposition parties were dropped. The court stated that the companies in which they held shares are not considered to be firms that produce news or other media-related content.
Pita Limjaroenrat, MFP leader, Chaitawat Tulathon, MFP secretary-general and other MFP MPs held a press conference at parliament regarding Thanwarin’s disqualification. Pita said this was not unexpected as 2 opposition MPs had been disqualified before.
“As the head of the party and a friend, I am proud and honoured to have worked with Thanwarin since the Future Forward Party and in the Move Forward Party. She is committed to fighting, destroying attitudes and eradicating walls in society. She is a fighter for human rights, equality and gender diversity.”
“We, the MFP MPs... will take the will of Thanwarin or Phi Golf [Thanwarin’s nickname] that is already created and move forward,” said Pita.
Chaitawat said that Sections 101 (6) and 98 (3) of the Political Parties Act that prohibit MPs from holding shares in media companies are meant to prohibit them from manipulating people via the media. Thanwarin’s companies provide filmmaking coordination and services, which are outside the scope of political intervention. He urged society to raise questions about the situation and the court’s distortion.
Thanwarin is thought to be the first transgender person to become an MP. She is a prominent figure pushing for same-sex marriage and gender diversity.
The case began in November 2019 after Thanathorn was disqualified as an MP for the same offence as Thanwarin. Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, then FFP secretary-general, submitted a complaint to the Constitutional Court to consider whether 41 MPs from ruling parties who also held shares in media companies were qualified or not. The Court accepted 32 cases for consideration.
Around the same time in June, Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, a PPRP MP and party legal advisor submitted to the Court similar complaints about 33 MPs from opposition parties, 21 from FFP. The court accepted 32 cases.