Thai EC ruling may cost Cabinet members their positions

BANGKOK (The Nation/ANN) - Suspension a possibility over holding of concessionaire shares, says Wissanu.

Certain members of the Cabinet might have to be suspended from their posts if the Constitutional Court issues an order, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said on Friday. He spoke after the Election Commission (EC) referred cases to the courts related to the politicians’ alleged holding of concessionaire shares in state enterprises or projects.
They could opt to resign or take leave from their posts to show their spirit, said Wissanu who is the government’s legal expert.
“Nobody could possibly stop them from that,” he said.
The EC on Tuesday decided that Science and Technology Minister Suvit Maesincee, Education Minister Teerakiat Charoensetta-silp, Deputy Transport Minister Pirin Chuchotitha-vorn and former Deputy Education Minister ML Panadda Diskul may have violated the Constitution by holding shares in state concessions, the EC secretary-general, Jarungwit Phumma said.
The current regulation, in effect since April 2017, prohibits Cabinet members and their spouses from holding shares equal to more than 5 per cent of any company.
The EC is obligated to submit the case to the Constitutional Court to make a final decision on whether their holding of concession shares is a conflict of interest. 
The Pheu Thai Party’s lawyer, Ruangkrai Leekitwatana, submitted the case to the EC for examination in February 2018. 
Noting that the ministers possessed shares in state concessions, he asked the commission to refer the case to the court. 
This week’s EC decision was considered a major blow to the pro-junta Palang Pracharat Party, whose deputy leader is minister Suvit. The party is expected to propose junta chief and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as its candidate for premier after the coming election. 
Asked if the case would affect the government’s image, Government Spokesman Puttipong Punnakanta on Friday said that the ministers should be considered innocent until the court came down with a verdict on their activities. 
The public should not rush to a conclusion or speculate on the court judgement, he said, comparing the case to that of Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, who was able to retain his position when the court ruled in his favour last November.
Don’s wife Narirat held shares above the legal limit of five per cent in the companies Panawong and Panawong Realty at the time the current regulation took effect on April 4, 2017. Four days after the statute came into force, Don’s wife made a written request to transfer about half of her shares to their 35-year-old son, Puen Pramudwinai. As a result, her total shareholdings decreased to 4 per cent. 
The court ruled that Don did not have to resign his position.
Details about the latest cases of the three ministers and a former minister have not been made public. 
But Puttipong said the ministers would cooperate with the EC and the court by providing sufficient information about their business interests in state concessions. 

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