MPs of Thailand's popular Future Forward brace for party's dissolution

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit of Thailand's Future Forward Party speaks during an unauthorised rally in Bangkok on Dec 14, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK - Members of Thailand's third largest party in Parliament are girding themselves for its possible dissolution, even as they insist that the court cases against the party are illegitimate.

Future Forward, popular among the younger generation for its progressive and anti-military stance, is facing an uncertain future as the Constitutional Court deliberates on two cases against the party.

If it rules to dissolve Future Forward, some 60 MPs will have to decide if they will form a new party or join an existing one in unison, or disperse and find new parties on their own.

Future Forward, which was formed last year, surprised many by winning 81 seats in the March election even though none of its members had run for office before.

If it is dissolved, its executives may also face a ban from politics, while the rest of its lawmakers are given 60 days to seek membership in a new party before their MP status expires.

"If it ever comes to that, I can go back to academia and work to promote human rights and democracy," said Ms Yaowalak Wongpraparat, a 50-year-old party executive who teaches business management at a university in Chiang Mai province.

Mr Taopiphop Limjittrakorn, a 30-year old MP for Bangkok Yai district, said: "If the new party's principles do not align with mine, namely standing with the people especially those at the grassroot level as opposed to capitalists, then I'll just quit."

He said he would continue working in politics and perhaps host a talk show on YouTube that highlights key political issues.

Mr Nattacha Boonchaiinsawat, a 29-year-old MP in Bangkok's Bang Khun Thian district, is also ready to quit if a new party is formed with a direction that does not align with the original principles.

In one of the court cases, the party is accused of seeking to overthrow the constitutional monarchy through its involvement with secret society Illuminati.

In the other case, it is accused of obtaining donations from an illegal source, following party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit's loans to his party totalling 191 million baht (S$8.5 million) earlier this year.

Calling both cases, and some two dozen other cases against the party and its key members, "politically motivated", the party plans to sue the Election Commission for skipping some steps in the legal procedure to rush its motion to seek the dissolution at the Constitutional Court.

It has filed several motions in Parliament against the pro-military government - among them a now-quashed motion to set up a panel to look into the impact of special orders issued by the regime since 2014 until the first half of this year.

It has also been campaigning for the amendments of the junta-drafted Constitution and the end of conscription.

Last Saturday, thousands gathered in Bangkok to show support for the party and defiance against the government, the first protest since the March election.

In 2007, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's popular Thai Rak Thai Party was dissolved over electoral law violations.

In March this year, Thai Raksa Chart was dissolved after nominating King Maha Vajiralongkorn's elder sister, Princess Ubolratana, as its prime ministerial candidate.

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