Shutdown of iTV May Safeguard MFP Pita’s Prime Ministerial Bid

The leader of the Move Forward Party (MFP), Pita Limjaroenrat, took one step closer to becoming prime minister on Monday.

This followed the chairman’s announcement during a recent iTV shareholders meeting that the media company is on hiatus due to ongoing litigation.

If proven that the media company has indeed shut down, this could potentially spare Mr. Pita from legal complications that might result in his disqualification as an MP.

iTV recently came under the spotlight when a video from their annual shareholders’ meeting on April 26th contradicted the official record.

Video segments recorded by a shareholder were broadcasted on TV Channel 3 late Sunday night.

In the video, a shareholder inquires, “Does iTV still operate media businesses?”, to which the meeting chair and Executive Director, Kim Siritaweechai, responds: “As of now, the firm doesn’t do anything. It has to wait for a legal case to end.”

Rumours are circulating about attempts to “revive” iTV to hinder Mr. Pita’s potential prime ministerial appointment via his shareholding in the media company.

The Chairman of the Election Commission (EC), Ittiporn Boonpracong, stated on Monday that the EC is already investigating whether Mr. Pita violated Section 151 of the organic law on the election of MPs.

On Friday, the EC dismissed all complaints regarding media share ownership against Mr. Pita. However, they will probe if Mr. Pita knowingly submitted his list-MP candidacy, despite potential ineligibility.

This could constitute a breach of Section 42(3) and Section 151 of the organic law on the election of MPs.

If convicted, Mr. Pita could face a maximum of ten years imprisonment, a fine ranging from 20,000 to 200,000 baht, and a 20-year election participation prohibition.

A source on Sunday said that the EC has already deemed four recent petitions and a dissolution request for the MFP baseless. Meanwhile, the MFP leads an eight-party coalition in forming a new government.

On Monday, Mr. Kim, also the president and executive director of Intouch Holdings Plc (the majority shareholder of iTV), instructed iTV committee members to investigate the shareholders’ meeting minutes.

Chaithawat Tulathon, MFP secretary-general, expressed that the video’s statements contradict the meeting’s official record, suggesting potential falsified.

He emphasized the necessity for iTV executives to clarify and asserted that efforts are underway to block the MFP’s government formation endeavor.

MFP MP-elect Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn pledged via Facebook to intensify demands for the broadcaster to comment on the issue, previously expressing doubt about the minutes’ accuracy.

“iTV must clarify why the minutes of its annual shareholders’ meeting did not match the answer given by the chairman at the event.”

“The society must ask whether this amounts to falsifying the minutes of the shareholders’ meeting to politically persecute another person and whether those responsible should face criminal charges,” Mr. Wiroj wrote.

Last week, Mr. Pita claimed to have transferred his 42,000 inherited shares from his late father to family members to prevent potential political exploitation.

He expressed confidence that nothing would disqualify him from being an MP or prime minister of a coalition government.

He indicated that in the 2018-19 financial statement, iTV was classified as a holding company, but in the next two financial statements, it was identified as a TV organization.

iTV ceased broadcasting in 2007, and Thai PBS took over its license. In 2014, the company was removed from the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

However, its business registration is still active due to an ongoing legal dispute with the government regarding unpaid concession fees.

On May 10, political activist Ruangkrai Leekitwattana requested the poll agency to investigate. The current constitution prohibits individuals with media holdings from running for office.