Thai court accepts case seeking to disband Move Forward Party

The Election Commission wants the party dissolved over its campaign to reform Thailand’s royal insult law.
Nontarat Phaicharoen
Thai court accepts case seeking to disband Move Forward Party Former Move Forward Party leader and prime ministerial candidate Pita Limjaroenrat leads a victory parade with fellow party members and supporters on May 15, 2023, after a general election.
Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP

Thailand’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday agreed to consider a petition from the Election Commission to dissolve the opposition Move Forward Party, in a development that could potentially reshape the kingdom’s political landscape.

The progressive Move Forward won the highest number of seats in parliamentary elections last year, but its bid to lead Thailand’s first pro-democracy government after nearly a decade of army-backed rule was blocked by conservative MPs and senators. 

The commission filed the case over Move Forward’s campaign to reform the country’s strict Lèse-Majesté law, also known as Article 112, which criminalizes insults against the monarchy and rights groups say has been used to stifle dissent.

The court has given Move Forward 15 days to reply to the petition. 

The decision to accept the complaint follows an order in January that Move Forward must stop all activity, including the use of speeches, publications and advertisements, aimed at repealing or amending Article 112 of the Criminal Code.

The court said the party’s pledge to amend the royal insult law amounted to an attempt to “overthrow” the constitutional monarchy.

Move Forward leader Chaithawat Tulathon said his party would fight the petition and present its case after Songkran, a festival that marks the Thai New Year later this month. 

“We have prepared quite adequately in advance,” Chaithawat said at a press conference Wednesday.

The looming court decision has reignited debate over the delicate balance between protecting the monarchy and upholding democratic freedoms in Thailand, with potentially far-reaching implications for politics in the kingdom.

The Constitutional Court disbanded Move Forward’s predecessor, Future Forward, in 2020 and banned its leader from politics for a decade over a campaign loan issue. 

Parit Wacharasindhu, a party-list MP, said it would be hasty to assume Move Forward would meet the same fate.

“The issue of petitioning for the party's dissolution is something our legal team and the party have been prepared for,” he told reporters after the EC filed its case on March 18. “We don't want to jump to conclusions because our legal team will do their utmost to prove our innocence through the process.”

Move Forward is the biggest party in Parliament, commanding 151 seats, and opinion polls show it is still the most popular political movement in Thailand. 

The party’s progressive policies have struck a chord with younger voters in particular, but are fiercely opposed by the military-backed parties and royalists that have long dominated Thai politics. 

If Move Forward was dissolved, analysts said it would be a setback for political reform in the country.

“It would reflect fundamentally that the process of political development through Thai political institutions has failed,” said Olarn Thinbangtieo, an associate professor at Burapha University’s Faculty of Political Science and Law.

Jon Preechawong in Bangkok contributed to this report.


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