BANGKOK — Top government officials on Friday ordered a probe into the Future Forward Party after it has admitted of hiring an American lobbyist to facilitate the party’s leader visit to the US in July.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said he has seen the contract between American public relations firm APCO Worldwide and the leader of the Future Forward Party Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit that surfaced to the media on Thursday, though he refused to link it with the recent rally against the Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha in New York.
“I’ve seen it,” Prawit said. “I don’t know whether it will relate to the protesters. We have to look into it.”
A reporter then asked him whether the opposition party is the mastermind of the new movement.
“Let’s follow what they’ve said. At least the Prime Minister handled the situation well and could continued his speech,” he responded.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam declined to comment whether hiring a lobbyist is unconstitutional.
“I don’t know. I can’t remember,” he said.
In a statement issued Friday by the party on its Facebook page, it claimed that the contract was a normal practice for a foreign politician to hire a facilitator to arrange meetings with local political figures and academics. It also insisted that the document was not leaked as some media had claimed.
“These documents are required to be disclosed as per US law, which any work related to politics have to be revealed for transparency,” reads the statement.
“Thanathorn hired APCO Worldwide LLC to facilitate arrangements with local individuals and organizations during his visit to the US from July 12 to 16,” the statement continued. “Some appointments have to be registered beforehand, so a representative is needed in accordance with the US law.”
The statement was made in response to some media reports that accused Thanathorn of hiring a lobbyist to create negative impressions on the current administration, which the party denied. Thanathorn went to the US to explain his working principles and the situation in Thailand, as well as to learn about policy implementation in the US, according to the statement.
Though the party claimed to hire the firm to facilitate Thanathorn’s visit in July, a Khaosod English reporter spotted that the length of the contract, which costs 10,000 dollars a month, is effective until the end of the year.
The party’s spokeswoman Pannika Wanich is yet to respond to the question.
A close examination into contract papers also revealed that Thanathorn had claimed himself to be not owned, directed, or financed by a foreign government, foreign political party, or other foreign principal, but he stated his nature as the leader of the Future Forward Party.
It also stated that Thanathorn had allowed the firm to carry out political activities on behalf of him, which has been defined as any activity that intends to influence any agency or official of the US government or the public.
Thanathorn said he will conduct a Facebook Live to clarify allegations later today.
During his five-day visit to the US, Thanathorn gave interviews about Thailand political situation to the press, including NBC News, Bloomberg, and VOA Thai.
Thanathorn’s Contract with APCO Worldwide LLC