Thailand Election Commission petitions court to disband Move Forward Party

Nontarat Phaicharoen
Thailand Election Commission petitions court to disband Move Forward Party Then-Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat waves after a meeting with coalition partners in Bangkok, May 18, 2023.
Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

Thailand’s Election Commission petitioned the Constitutional Court on Monday to dissolve the Move Forward Party and ban its top leaders from politics for 10 years.

The progressive party won the most seats in last year’s general election but was blocked from heading the country’s first civilian ruling coalition in nine years by lawmakers aligned with the Thai military.

“There is credible evidence suggesting that the Move Forward Party [MFP] has engaged in activities aimed at overthrowing the democratic regime under the monarchy,” EC Secretary-General Sawang Boonmee told reporters after submitting the petition electronically. 

The petition follows a January Constitutional Court ruling that statements by the party’s former leader, Pita Limjaroenrat, and its campaign promise to reform Thailand’s strict lèse-majesté law had amounted to hostile intentions toward the democratic system. 

In the May 2023 election, the Move Forward Party shook Thailand’s political landscape through outperforming parties supported by the military and by advocating for military and monopoly reforms, as well as changes to Article 112 (lèse-majesté) that outlaws insults against the monarchy and royal defamation. 

The MFP proposals found support among young and urban voters, yet the party found itself excluded from power. Efforts by the military and royalist factions effectively thwarted its endeavors to form a government.

Pita was prevented from assuming the office of prime minister by the Senate’s conservative bloc, largely because of perceived risks that his leadership and the party’s platform posed to the monarchical system. 

Chaithawat Tulathon, current leader of the Move Forward Party, pledged to contest the allegations while acknowledging that the battle would be challenging given the Constitutional Court’s previous ruling. 

“We must argue that there is insufficient reason for such a ruling to dissolve the Move Forward Party,” Chaithawat said. “Normally, the court must conduct an inquiry – at the very least allowing the accused party to refute the allegations.” 

18 TH-move-forward2.JPG
Former Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat (center) speaks to reporters during a news conference at the Thai parliament in Bangkok after the Constitutional Court ordered the party to stop campaigning for lèse-majesté reform, Jan. 31, 2024. [Jack Taylor/AFP]


The monarchy is constitutionally enshrined in Thailand and any criticism of the royal family is fiercely contested by conservative factions. Analysts see a high likelihood of Move Forward’s dissolution given the recent court ruling against it.

Isa Gharti, a public policy researcher at Chiang Mai University, said the probability of the Move Forward Party being dissolved was high. Still, factors that could influence the Constitutional Court’s decision include whether the EC’s evidence is substantial enough and the court’s interpretation of the law. 

“It’s certain that the supporters of the Move Forward Party will feel disappointed and deprived of a political choice, potentially leading to societal tension and a loss of faith in the electoral system,” Gharti told BenarNews. 

If the court rules to disband Move Forward, it could reshape Thailand’s political landscape by removing the key opposition voice. On the other hand, the potential move risks galvanizing the party’s supporters.

Thailand has seen opposition parties disbanded in recent decades. In 2020, the Constitutional Court ordered the dissolution of the Future Forward Party, finding that the party’s act of borrowing money from its leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, for the 2019 election campaign was unconstitutional.  

That ruling led to a 10-year political ban for the party’s executive members, which led to the creation of the Move Forward Party by several of its former members.

Today, as the EC seeks to dissolve the Move Forward Party over alleged attempts to overthrow the constitutional monarchy, Thai Defense Minister Sutin Klungsang emphasized the need for the government to compromise with the military because of its role in politics. 

“Change should be gradual,” he said during an interview with Nikkei News. 

Addressing Thailand’s history of frequent military coups, Sutin, in an interview with Nikkei News, advocated for an educational approach to democratic values within the country, rather than seeking to enforce civilian control through constitutional and legal means. 

“Regulating the military’s activities through the constitution and the law is pointless,” Sutin told Nikkei. 

Ruj Chuenban in Bangkok contributed to this report.


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