Can Move Forward survive latest wave of dissolution threats?
The opposition Move Forward Party has been cleared of serious charges that threatened its dissolution after the Election Commission (EC) decided not to forward an accuser’s complaint to the Constitutional Court.
However, the legal headaches may not be over for the party seen as the most progressive outfit in the Thai Parliament. The same accuser has threatened to sue the election commissioners and seek a ruling on whether their decision to dismiss the complaint was lawful.
Natthaporn Toprayoon, a former adviser to the Ombudsman, took his case to the EC in February last year, accusing Move Forward of taking actions between August 2020 and January 2021 that were aimed at overthrowing Thailand’s rule of democracy with the King as head of state.
His petition outlined 10 actions by the party’s MPs and executives, including party leader Pita Limjaroenrat and secretary-general Chaithawat Tulathon, that he claimed had breached Articles 45 and 92 of the Political Parties Act, which prohibits political parties from encouraging or supporting anyone to create unrest, undermine social order or oppose the laws of the country.
Actions cited by Natthaporn included the participation of 17 Move Forward MPs in anti-government protests in September 2020, the party MPs using their positions to bail out arrested protesters accused of lese majeste or sedition, the party’s support for NGO iLaw’s draft bill to amend chapters in the Constitution regarding the monarchy and integrity of the Kingdom, as well as the party’s resolution seeking amendments to Article 112 of the Penal Code or the lese majeste law.
Natthaporn based his petition on a Constitutional Court verdict in November 2021 that found anti-establishment activists Arnon Nampa, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and Panupong Jadnok guilty of attempting to overthrow democratic governance with the King as head of state by demanding reform of the monarchy during rallies in 2020. The court also ordered the activists and their supporters to end all moves against the royal institution.
Refusing to give up
Natthaporn insisted the Constitutional Court verdict could be used as a basis for legal action against the trio and other activists and their supporters, including academics and political parties.
However, the EC last week resolved not to forward Natthaporn’s petition to the Constitutional Court on grounds that the actions mentioned could not be deemed as “hostile to the country’s democratic system with the King as head of state”.
The accuser quickly disputed that resolution, saying the EC’s decision conflicted with the court’s earlier verdict on the activist trio and that, as state officials, the election commissioners were required to comply with the Constitution and other laws.
He also threatened to file a lawsuit against the election commissioners with the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases, to seek a ruling on whether their decision to absolve Move Forward was lawful.
Along with pressure from Natthaporn, Move Forward is also facing other complaints seeking its disbandment, including one filed by Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a politician from the ruling Palang Pracharath Party. In August last year, he filed a petition with the EC to disband Move Forward on grounds that its proposal to reduce the budget allocated to the crown for 2022 was a hostile act against the Thai democratic regime with King as head of state.
Natthaporn is a familiar name for Move Forward. In July 2019 he sought to disband its former incarnation, the now-defunct Future Forward Party, in the so-called Illuminati case, in which he accused the party of seeking to overthrow the country’s constitutional monarchy. His case against Future Forward was later rejected by the Constitutional Court, which found that regulations, press interviews and speeches made by the party’s senior figures were not deemed to undermine the monarchy as claimed.
The accuser’s petition claimed that Future Forward’s triangular logo evoked the fabled Illuminati sect “believed to be behind the unseating of monarchies in Europe”.
By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk