Banned Thai opposition party says junta helped Malaysia’s 1MDB cover-up

FILE PHOTO: Men walk past a 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) billboard at the fund's flagship Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur March 1, 2015. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

A banned Thai opposition party on Sunday accused the former military junta of helping cover up Malaysia’s multi-billion-dollar 1MDB scandal, urging Thais to demand the truth ahead of a censure debate against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The Future Forward Party, the third-largest party in parliament, was dissolved on Friday by Thailand’s Constitutional Court over a loan it took from its billionaire founder.

The dissolution was decried by democracy advocates as a way to weaken opposition to the government of Prayuth, who first came to power in a 2014 military coup and led a military junta until after elections last year that his pro-army party won.

Future Forward’s spokeswoman, Pannika Wanich, told reporters at a news conference on Sunday that the junta had worked with Malaysia’s former government to arrest a whistleblower in the 1MDB case in 2015 and had allowed financial criminals to operate in Thailand, risking the country’s international ties.

“The junta government yearned for international acceptance after the coup…and formed a dark alliance with Malaysia,” Pannika said.

“The only person who can issue these orders is Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha,” Pannika said.

Pannika cited irregularities surrounding Thailand’s arrest and the subsequent confession of Xavier Justo, the Swiss national who was arrested in Thailand in 2015 the first whistleblower in the 1MDB affair.

The government also harboured Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, known as Jho Low, allowing him to enter the country at least five times between October 2016 and May 2018, despite Low having an Interpol red notice from Singapore, she said.

Low has been charged in Malaysia and the United States over the alleged theft of $4.5 billion from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), set up by former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak with the help of Low, to promote economic development.

At least six countries, including the United States, have launched money laundering, financial mismanagement and criminal probes into 1MDB dealings.

Low has denied any wrongdoing. His whereabouts are unknown.

Future Forward Party said it would have opened an investigation on corruption and money laundering related to the 1MDB case if it were in power.

“If we were in government, we would investigate. We want a government that is a responsible neighbour and acts with dignity,” Pannika said.

“Since we have been dissolved, we can’t, but the Thai public can demand the truth.”

A spokesman for the Malaysian prime minister’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Reuters

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In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

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  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
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