6 June 2024

After 17 years in politics, four-time MP Pareena Kraikupt from the ruling Palang Pracharath Party has been dealt a political death blow by the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders. Last Thursday, she was stripped of her MP status and banned for life from running for political office.

The sentence came after the court found her guilty of severe ethical misconduct for encroaching on over 1,700 rai of state land in her home province of Ratchaburi.

Her offense was ruled a conflict of interest and damaging to MPs’ integrity — together considered ethical violations as per the Constitution.

Unlikely support from enemy

The outspoken Pareena, 45, described the court verdict as a “political death sentence” and urged her supporters to “meet again soon outside Parliament”.

Meanwhile, the conservative politician found unlikely backing from a leading figure in the anti-establishment camp. Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, a core leader of the Progressive Movement, declared the court verdict was a “gross violation” of Pareena’s basic rights.

Politicians accused of ethical violations should be judged by Parliament, not by a court, the onetime secretary-general of the now-defunct Future Forward Party argued. He said the Constitution had transgressed in allowing the judiciary to trespass on legislative affairs.

More legal troubles ahead

In addition to her lifetime ban from politics, Pareena also faces a criminal charge of encroaching on large forest-reserve areas — an offense that carries a penalty of up to two years in prison and a maximum fine of 2 million baht.

She is also accused of filing a false report with the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) for listing state land among her personal assets — an offense that carries a maximum of six months in jail and a 10,000-baht fine, plus removal of electoral rights for up to 10 years.

However, the NACC was convinced that Pareena made an honest mistake in declaring the state land as assets, secretary-general Niwatchai Kasemmongkol said on Monday.

PPRP’s Pareena equates Supreme Court verdict to ‘political death sentence’

Calling for equal treatment

Pareena refused to be cowed by the verdict, declaring that her case should set a precedent for punishing other politicians and senior bureaucrats who encroach on state land.

She urged the NACC to speed up its more than two-year investigation of other parliamentarians accused of illegal land ownership, noting that unlike in her case, no legal action has been taken against any of them.

The Supreme Court’s verdict against her made it clear that ownership of state land by politicians is deemed a gross ethical violation, Pareena said in a Facebook post on Sunday.

A veteran political heiress

Pareena is heir to the political dynasty founded by her father, Thawee Kraikupt, a seven-time MP from Ratchaburi province who retired from politics in 2001 after a humbling election defeat.

She replaced her father as a Thai Rak Thai Party candidate in the following general election, in 2005, and was elected for the first time as an MP for her home province. She was re-elected in the three consecutive elections — running for Chart Thai Party in 2007, for Chartthaipattana in 2011, and for Palang Pracharath in 2019.

In Parliament, Pareena gained a reputation for ferocity, with a seemingly fearless temperament for stirring up trouble or criticism. She clashed in public and online with many opposition politicians and government critics, including Piyabutr.

During parliamentary meetings, she frequently stood up against verbal attacks on her ruling party and key government figures. And she just as frequently counterattacked on issues that threatened the popularity of the current administration.

Born on May 19, 1976, in Ratchaburi, Pareena studied overseas from a young age, obtaining her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the United States.

In 2001, she won the Miss Congeniality title at the Miss Thailand beauty pageant.

A divorcee and single mother, she receives 250,000 baht every month in child support from her ex-husband – billionaire and senator Upakit Pachariyangkun. Her latest asset declaration showed Pareena was worth more than 100 million baht.

By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk