Reformist Thai MP Pita Given Suspended Sentence over 2019 Protest

Former Thai prime ministerial candidate and Move Forward Party (MFP) MP Pita Limjaroenrat speaks during a press conference at the Thai parliament in Bangkok on January 31, 2024, after Thailand's Constitutional Court court ordered Pita and MFP to stop campaigning for lese-majeste reform immediately. Photo by Jack TAYLOR / AFP

Bangkok, Thailand -- A Thai court handed down two-year suspended jail sentences to ex-prime minister candidate Pita Limjareont and seven others over their involvement in a 2019 protest, their lawyer said Monday, the latest hurdle thrown against the progressive lawmaker.

Five years ago huge demonstrations mushroomed across the capital, led by the hugely popular Future Forward Party (FFP), urging reform and calling on ex-Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha to quit.

The case concerns one December 14 protest held for 40 minutes at a key Bangkok intersection, months before a court would dissolve the FFP, which Pita was a member of.

The ex-leader of the Move Forward Party (MFP) which won the most seats in the 2023 election, was only recently reinstated as an MP.

The other defendants were FFP leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit -- currently banned from politics -- his ex-secretary Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, Nuttaa Mahattana, Parit "Penguin" Chiwarak, Thanawat Wongchai, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, Pannika Wanich and Pairatthachote Chantharakachorn.

"A court ruled that the protest was organised without permission, blocked public space, and was within 150 meters from Pathumwan palace," lawyer Krisadang Nootjaras told AFP.

He said that the eight were initially sentenced to four-month jail terms, but in the hour-long reading it was commuted to two-year suspended sentences, and 20,200 baht ($280) fines.

"We will ask for more details on this ruling before we decide the angle to fight," Pita told reporters.

He also referred to the different sentences other protest groups received.

A court last month dismissed terrorism charges against royalist anti-government demonstrators who shut down Bangkok's two largest airports for more than a week in 2008.

It's the latest legal blow to Pita, who was last year suspended from parliament by Thailand's Constitutional Court for owning shares in a media company.

He was also blocked from the top job by the senate -- whose members were handpicked by the last junta -- over his determination to reform Thailand's tough royal defamation laws.

And the MFP was excluded last August from a coalition trying to form the next government, sparking anger by some MFP supporters.


© Agence France-Presse

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