New party pulls in B20 million in a week

Future Forward gets warning from EC

The Election Commission says that maybe charismatic Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit didn't realise that taking public donations is absolutely forbidden. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

The Future Forward Party, which has raised nearly 20 million baht in funds in about a week, has been warned by the Election Commission about receiving donations as the act is still prohibited by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

"The party has been newly founded, so it may not be aware of this order," deputy EC secretary-general Sawaeng Boonmee said Wednesday, referring to the NCPO's order that banned political activities, including fundraising for political purposes, after its 2014 coup.

Though the military regime has lately eased some of its restrictions, allowing parties to convene and recruit new members, a ban on donations remains.

The NCPO only allows parties to receive handouts from party executives of a "sufficient amount" to cover necessary expenses, Mr Sawaeng said.

Future Forward, an anti-military party called in Thai anakhot mai, is currently the only party that has broken the rule, he said.

The election watchdog earlier sent letters to parties warning about donation issues. Mr Sawaeng said: "Future Forward was newly set up and perhaps did not receive that letter."

The warning came as Future Forward reportedly announced its "donations and revenues from souvenir sales" had reached nearly 20 million baht.

Earlier on Sunday, deputy Future Forward leader Chamnan Chanrueang also expressed confidence his party is creating a "tsunami in politics" after a rapid increase in its new members.

The party received up to 713 applications on the first day of membership registration on Oct 6 and many of them suddenly paid lifelong membership fees of 2,000 baht each instead of opting for a 100-baht annual payment, he said.

Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary-general of the Future Forward Party responded on a Facebook page, asking the EC to review the rules of donations.

"The EC has provided guidelines that only permit handouts to be received via party executives. That means donations to the party will concern only a few executives in a party, not all people. That restriction might defeat the purpose of the attempt to make a party belong to the people," Mr Piyabutr said.

Meanwhile, EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma warned parties may be dissolved if they commit serious law violations. He explained various acts that will lead to a dissolution, including having "outsiders" to influence party policies and illegally setting up parties.

"Receiving donations from party supporters, along with demanding or offering money in a secret deal to sell and buy political positions, can lead to the dissolution," Pol Col Jarungvith warned.

The EC stays alert to all complaints over illegal acts after a report said some parties handed out rice grain to villagers during membership registration.

This is considered an attempt to bribe people into being members of a party, he said.

Other activities like live video broadcasts of people who are not party members designed to influence party policies, and a move by some politicians and activists, still banned from politics, to form new parties, are also unacceptable, he said.

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