Future Forward lives to fight another dissolution bid

Thai opposition party cleared of trying to overthrow the monarchy but faces another case over loans from founder

Future Forward Party, Thailand's second-largest opposition party, yesterday survived a bid to have it dissolved, after being found not guilty by the Constitutional Court of seeking to overthrow the constitutional monarchy due to insufficient evidence.

A petition was brought last July against Future Forward and its leaders, including founder Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, by Mr Natthaporn Toprayoon, a former adviser to the Chief Ombudsman.

He alleged, among other things, that the party had links to the Illuminati, a secret society that conspiracy theorists say is angling for world domination and therefore a threat to the monarchy.

"This should not have been a legal case in the first place. I, Mr Thanathorn, and the party confirm that we have no intention to act against the constitutional monarchy," Future Forward secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul told the press soon after the verdict was delivered.

"It is not the people or any political parties that act against the constitutional monarchy. It is instead the coups, the armed military that tore down the Constitution and prolonged military power," he added, amid loud cheers and claps from party members and supporters at the party headquarters.

Dr Wanwichit Boonprong, a political science professor at Rangsit University, said: "This ruling acts as a breathing tube allowing the party to continue its political journey. It could also be used by the party to legitimise itself further, that it is not acting against the monarchy as its opponents claimed, thereby strengthening its position in and outside Parliament."

Mr Natthaporn told reporters outside the courtroom, ahead of the ruling yesterday, that he merely aimed to stop the behaviour of members of the party deemed disrespectful to the monarchy.

"We, Thais, get to live in a sovereign country thanks to the monarchy, so we need to protect this institution. Today, I have done my part," the 70-year-old said.

Among his allegations was one that Future Forward did not include the term "constitutional monarchy" in its regulations but instead opted for the phrase "democratic principles in accordance with the Constitution".

According to Mr Natthaporn, the party's triangular logo is similar to the Eye of Providence, a symbol often linked with the Illuminati.

The ruling gives Future Forward some reprieve, although the party is still facing possible dissolution in another case being deliberated by the Constitutional Court in relation to Mr Thanathorn's series of loans worth 191 million baht (S$8.4 million) to the party last year.

 AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Future Forward's founder Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit greeting supporters in Bangkok yesterday, after Thailand's Constitutional Court found it not guilty of seeking to overthrow the constitutional monarchy. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Dr Wanwichit said there is a "much higher possibility" that the court may rule against the party, as the case carries more weight.

Meanwhile, the party is expected to grill the military-backed government in a no-confidence parliamentary motion in the coming weeks.

"The wave of judicial cases that the authorities have unleashed against the Future Forward Party is clearly part of systematic reprisals for their success in last year's election and their unwavering challenge to the military-backed government," said Mr Charles Santiago, a Malaysian Member of Parliament and chairman of Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights, in a statement yesterday.

"If Thailand's government wants to restore faith in its so-called 'return to democracy', it should immediately drop all politically motivated charges against the Future Forward Party and democracy activists," he added.

Additional Reporting by Kannikar Petchkaew

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2020, with the headline 'Future Forward lives to fight another dissolution bid'. Print Edition | Subscribe