Thai Constitutional Court Accepts Petition Seeking Dissolution of MFP

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Thai Constitutional Court Accepts Petition Seeking Dissolution of MFP

The opposition Move Forward Party seems almost certain to meet the same fate as its predecessor, Future Forward.

Thai Constitutional Court Accepts Petition Seeking Dissolution of MFP

Pita Limjaroenrat, the leader of Thailand’s Move Forward Party (MFP), speaks to supporters in Udon Thani, Thailand, March 2, 2024.

Credit: X/พรรคก้าวไกล – Move Forward Party

Thailand’s Constitutional Court yesterday accepted a petition seeking the disbanding of the opposition Move Forward Party (MFP), in connection with the party’s pledge to amend the country’s severe lese-majeste law.

The court said that it agreed to take on a complaint filed by the Election Commission on March 12. The complaint requested that it disband the MFP because of its campaign promise to amend Article 112 of the Thai criminal code, which criminalizes critical comments about the country’s monarchy.

“The court found reasonable evidence to consider whether the party broke the election law,” the Constitutional Court said in a statement, adding it has ordered the MFP to send explanatory documents to the court within 15 days. A decision will presumably be rendered shortly after that.

The decision came after a Constitutional Court ruling on January 31, which found that the party’s proposed amendments to Article 112 constituted an attempt to overthrow Thailand’s constitutional monarchy. The party has denied that this was its intention, and its spokesperson said yesterday that it “would prepare its defense and was ready for all scenarios,” as Reuters reported.

The MFP won a surprising victory at last year’s general election, on a progressive platform that included pledges to break up business monopolies and end military conscription. But the party was blocked from forming a government by the military-appointed Senate and has since come under legal scrutiny for its campaign pledges to amend Article 112, which it claims has been used as a tool to silence political dissent.

The Court’s decision yesterday pushes the MFP one step closer to dissolution, the fate experienced by its predecessor Future Forward in early 2020. If the court does as expected and orders the dissolution of the party, its leader Pita Limjaroenrat and other executives can expect to be automatically banned from Thai politics for a lengthy period. When Future Forward was banned in 2020, several of its leading personalities, including its founder Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, were banned from politics for 10 years.

Whatever defense the MFP manages to muster, it is hard to see the Constitutional Court choosing not to disband a party that it has previously accused of attempting to overthrow Thailand’s political order. If – or when – it does so, it will effectively nullify the votes of 14.4 million Thai voters, deepening the discontent that has fueled the popularity of the MFP, and pushing many younger Thais toward more radical critiques of the status quo.

The dissolution of Future Forward in 2020 was the catalyst for the wave of anti-government protests that took place throughout that year and into early 2021. These saw rare public criticism of the Thai monarchy and the legal framework, including Article 112, which prevents any scrutiny of its role in the country’s politics.

The protests were eventually halted by the government’s COVID-19 restrictions and the liberal use of the lese-majeste law. According to a leading Thai human rights group, more than 260 people currently face charges under the law, many of them leaders and participants of the protesters.

If the abolition of Future Forward led to the breaking of the monarchical taboo, the effacement of the MFP will likely prompt further radicalization in the opposition’s ranks, resulting in cycles of political conflict in the coming years.