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Thai Court to Rule on Petition Seeking Dissolution of Leading Opposition Party

Nontarat Phaicharoen and Wilawan Watcharasakwet
Bangkok
2019-12-26
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Thai Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit addresses supporters during a rally in Bangkok, Dec.14, 2019.
Thai Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit addresses supporters during a rally in Bangkok, Dec.14, 2019.
AFP

Thailand’s Constitutional Court is expected to issue a ruling next month that could lead to the opposition Future Forward Party being dissolved over a complaint alleging it is plotting to overthrow the monarchy.

The court announced Wednesday that it would decide Jan. 21 on a complaint accusing FFP of involvement in seditious acts. In the same statement, the court gave the party 15 days to respond to another case alleging FFP had violated laws governing political parties by accepting campaign funds from its leader and founder, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.

The court said it found the sedition complaint filed in June by Natthaporn Toprayoon, a former adviser of the Ombudsman’s Office, “substantial and needed no hearings.”

“The Constitutional Court has considered the complaint … to decide whether the Future Forward Party, its leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, secretary general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul and party’s executives, exercised their rights and freedom to overthrow the constitutional monarchy or not,” it said in the statement.

Natthaporn’s petition, which seeks FFP’s disbandment, accuses the anti-junta party of having links to the Illuminati, a secretive group of European elites that conspiracy theorists believe was plotting to overthrow governments. The complaint alleges that FFP’s logo even resembles the triangular symbol used by the European society.

The court said it had accepted a separate petition from the Election Commission, which also recommended early this month that the FFP be dissolved, accusing it of violating laws governing political parties when it took loans from its leader.

Thanathorn, a 41-year-old billionaire who has become one of the most outspoken critics of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, has said in his official declaration of assets that he provided a loan of 191.2 million baht ($6.3 million) to finance the party’s electoral campaigns during the March general election.

But the commission ruled that Thanathorn was not anticipating a repayment, dismissing his claims that the amount – in two sums, one of 161.2 million baht ($5.3 million) in January, and a second of 30 million ($994,000) in April – was given out to the party as a loan.

It was not immediately clear if the Constitutional Court would issue its ruling on the two cases on the same day.

Natthaporn said in his allegations that the FFP had taken steps to undermine the monarchy by “belittling the military and the judiciary,” which, he said, were considered representatives of the kingdom.

On Thursday, a spokeswoman for FFP did not immediately return calls for comment from BenarNews.

Police filed charges against Thanathorn on Dec. 16, two days after thousands of supporters joined him in one of the largest political rallies seen in Bangkok since Prayuth led a military coup that toppled Yingluck Shinawatra in 2014.

Rights activist: Allegations of Illuminati links ‘ludicrous’

“While the allegation about Illuminati links is totally ludicrous and baseless, the rest of this complaint accuses that FFP’s democratic reform agenda amounts to a conspiracy to overthrow Thailand's monarchy and transform the country into a republic – the most serious charges in Thai politics,” Sunai Phasuk, a Thai researcher for Human Rights Watch told BenarNews.

“It's clear that enemies of FFP don’t want just to see the party dissolved, they want the party leadership and liberal democracy ideology that the party stands for to be wiped off from the political landscape,” he said.

“For the Constitutional Court to say that it will give a ruling without holding a hearing raises concerns about the lack of due process and fair trial standards in this case,” he said.

Prayuth appointed himself as prime minister in May 2014, before the March general election that installed him as a civilian leader this year. The Future Forward Party bagged a third of the parliamentary seats in that election, which critics said was engineered to keep Prayuth in power.

Former election commissioner Sodsri Sattayatham told reporters that if the court decided to dissolve FFP, its leader and executives would be banned from politics for up to 10 years, while those elected to parliament could join other parties.

The court stripped Thanathorn of his status as a legislator last month, ruling that he illegally held media stocks while running for office.

Meanwhile, a ruling coalition member said it was highly likely that the FFP would be dissolved.

“The accusation must be valid and I believe the Court has sufficient evidence,” Nanthadej Meksawat, an adviser to the minister of labor and social welfare, told BenarNews.

“The dissolution of FFP … will not change the Thai political landscape,” he said, adding that despite a possible political ban on its party leaders, “members can set up a new party, anyway.”

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