11 July 2024

The Move Forward Party has not abandoned its endeavor to have the lese majeste law amended but its spokesman admitted that it will have to work within the bounds set by the Constitutional Court which last week ruled that it constituted an attempt to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.

Speaking to Thai PBS World in an interview on Monday, Move Forward Spokesman Parit Wacharasindhu said the court ruling has far-reaching ramifications on Thailand’s democracy.

“I think what immediately struck us was that this ruling is not only going to have implications on the short-term fate of Move Forward Party and its MPs, but it might have a more sustained or long-term effect or set of implications on the status and health as well as direction of Thailand’s democracy and Thailand’s political system,” he said.

Parit refuted charges that the Move Forward’s advocacy for Article 112 to be amended was tantamount to an attempt to overthrow the country’s democratic system with the King as the head of state as ruled by the court.

“What we are trying to reiterate is that the action or the process of submitting a draft law would never, ever result in the overthrowing of the monarchy or the political system.

Because once MPs submit a certain draft bill, it will have to go through multiple stages along the way, whether in the House of Representatives, whether in the Upper House or the Senate, or even being checked by other organizations via constitutional means,” he said, referring to a bill MPs of his party unsuccessfully submitted to the House to amend Article 112 last year.

Parit insisted that his party will continue to push for changes in Article 112 of the criminal code but will take into consideration the restrictions imposed by the court ruling.  Move Forward and critics of the article believe it has often been misused by people in power against their political opponents.

“I think what we saw as being a problem in the past we still see as a problem today. But, of course, we will have to press ahead within the bounds of what the Constitutional Court has ruled,” he said.

The court has ruled that all forms advocacy for outright abrogation of Article 112 are prohibited and amending it can be done only through legislative channel.

Parit said that before taking any additional steps, Move Forward will study in details the court ruling and opinion of each individual judge.

“Once we are clear on what is still possible or what that potential solution space looks like, then we will have as a second step an internal discussion amongst MPs in the party in terms of what we might contemplate pushing ahead,” he said.

Analysts believe that the unanimous court ruling has opened the door to a far bigger threat to the party’s survival.  Petitions have already been filed with the Election Commission for it to ask the Constitutional Court to have the party disbanded.

The 44 Move Forward MPs who co-sponsored the draft bill to amend Article 112 are also facing the threat of a life-time political ban for alleged serious breaches of political ethics.

While declining to predict whether a dissolution of Move Forward would trigger a new round of political chaos, Parit insisted that Thailand needs to have effective parliamentary means to resolve differences and conflicts.

“If parliament cannot be an effective arena for settling differences of opinion and finding consensus among parties and people of different ideologies, then of course, people will have little choice but to go to extra-parliamentary means to voice their opinions and to push for changes,” he said.

While insisting the possibility of Move Forward being dissolved and its MPs disqualified is “still far from a foregone conclusion,” Parit said the party is prepared for any eventuality.

“Even if the worst-case scenario were to happen, the ideas and ideology that is behind Move Forward Party and bounds our members and supporters together will still be carried on through a new set of vehicles that will take it forward,” he said.

Parit said that despite the predicament Move Forward is facing as a result of its election platform, he believed that all political parties have the obligation to find solutions to what they see as problems facing the country.

“Each party may have different views on different problems. Some may see something as a problem, others may not see as a problem.

Or they may see the same problem but have different solutions to it. But political parties should not shy away from facing up to problems of this country and finding what they believe to be the best solution to that problem,” he said.

By Thepchai Yong