The political landscape of Thailand reverberated on Friday as members of the Pheu Thai Party circled their wagons around Srettha Thavisin. Thavisin, the party’s prime ministerial candidate, has recently been at the heart of allegations concerning tax evasion. Despite these accusations, his party has remained steadfast, declaring that his candidacy was not marred by any kind of ethical issues during the screening process.
The allegations were raised by political activist Chuvit Kamolvisit in a press conference. He shared alleged evidence that pointed to anomalies in a land acquisition transaction by property development firm Sansiri in August 2019. At that time, Thavisin was functioning as the chief executive of the company. Kamolvisit revealed that Thavisin had authorized the acquisition and subsequent sale agreement of a 1,600-square-metre plot of land located on Sarasin Road. The land, costing 1.57 billion baht, was acquired from 12 individuals who owned it under a single title deed. Kamolvisit pointed out that although the transaction should have generated a tax of 521 million baht, the company managed to pay only 59.2 million baht for the land deal.
Kamolvisit further indicated that Sansiri successfully dodged a colossal tax payment by individually allowing each of the 12 persons to transfer smaller plots of land to the company. This was done over 12 days to help them bypass the regular procedure.
Reacting to the allegations, Anusorn Iamsa-ard, a Member of Parliament on the Pheu Thai Party list, said on Friday that the party welcomed any public scrutiny of its prime ministerial candidate. He affirmed that the party’s legal team had meticulously reviewed all the evidence and was confident that there was nothing amiss during the screening process for Thavisin’s candidacy.
Anusorn asserted, “Thavisin is fully primed to be our next prime minister. He has not engaged in any activities that breach the Thai constitution, laws, or ethics.” He further admonished Kamolvisit to corroborate his allegations with the Revenue Department before bringing them before the public. He also probed into the activist’s intentions for raising these allegations prior to the parliamentary vote for a new prime minister.
The party’s deputy spokesperson, Chanin Rungtanakiat, jumped into the fray, stating that all real estate developers knew it was common practice for both buyers and sellers to share tax payments and incidental fees. At times, sellers may even undertake to pay all taxes and expenses if the price of the land meets their expectations. He stressed there was nothing questionable about this.
Meanwhile, political activist and ex-senator, Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, expressed his desire to probe deeper into Thavisin’s alleged tax evasion. Having previously accused Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the Move Forward Party, of owning shares in a media company, he stated “I am conversant with the process of tax payment. I observed irregularities in the land purchase and wish to probe this case, considering the candidate involved is aspiring for the prime minister’s position.”