Thai court to rule on case linking opposition to Illuminati cult

Thailand's Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit talks to his supporters during rally in Bangkok on Dec 14, 2019. The Future Forward Party could be dissolved if convicted. PHOTO: AP

BANGKOK (AP) - Thailand's Constitutional Court says it will rule on a sedition complaint that claims a popular opposition political party is linked to the Illuminati, a cult which conspiracy theorists say secretly seeks world domination.

The complaint filed in July by lawyer Natthaporn Toprayoon charges that the Future Forward Party seeks to overthrow Thailand's constitutional monarchy.

The new party, which won the third-highest number of seats in a March general election, denies the allegation. It could be dissolved if convicted.

The court's statement, made public on Sunday, said no hearings would be held in the case because the court already had enough evidence. No date for its ruling was specified.

Party spokeswoman Pannika Wanich said its request for a hearing was refused, but that it had sent the court documents in its defence.

The opposition party has been a strong irritant to Thailand's conservative establishment - led by royalists and the military - in whose favour the courts have consistently ruled.

The party is disliked by officialdom not only for its anti-military stance but also because of its strong popularity.

There is a widespread belief that the deck is stacked against it and it will end up being disbanded, with its leaders banned from political office for several years.

The July complaint listed statements by party officials critical of Thai traditions, and pointed out that its logo is an inverted triangle, which if turned right-side up resembles the alleged symbol of the Illuminati.

It claimed the Illuminati had sought to overthrow European monarchies and influence the US Declaration of Independence.

No serious scholars give credence to the conspiracy theory, which claims that a small elite seeks to manipulate events to foment chaos and create what they call a "New World Order".

Mr Natthaporn alleged that the resemblance of the party's symbol to that of the Illuminati showed its hidden purpose, and when its leaders' other behaviour is taken into account, it shows they "do not trust in conventional thoughts".

Mr Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher based in Thailand for the group Human Rights Watch, said that by not holding a hearing, the court was preventing the party from mounting a proper defence.

"No hearing means the loss of transparency in the Thai judicial system," he said.

The Future Forward Party is already at risk of dissolution because of a separate case that has been sent to the Constitutional Court by the state Election Commission.

Earlier this month, the commission ruled that the party had broken election laws by accepting a loan from its head, Mr Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.

The Constitutional Court ruled last month that Mr Thanathorn could not keep his lawmaker's seat because he violated an election law barring owners of media companies from running for Parliament.

The court rejected Mr Thanathorn's claim that he sold his holding in a media production company before the deadline needed to be a candidate.

Police have also summoned Mr Thanathorn and another party leader to appear on Friday to acknowledge charges against them related to a demonstration in central Bangkok.

Police accused Mr Thanathorn and the other leader of failing to inform police about the rally in advance, blocking a mass transit station, failing to control protesters and using a megaphone without permission.

Several thousand protesters showed up on Dec 14 to express their anger against the government and to support Mr Thanathorn after the Constitutional Court's ruling that stripped him of his lawmaker's status.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.