Thai Constitutional Court to Conclude Key Political Cases By September

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Thai Constitutional Court to Conclude Key Political Cases By September

The two high-profile cases could determine the fate of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and the opposition Move Forward Party.

Thai Constitutional Court to Conclude Key Political Cases By September
Credit: Photo 316971564 © Bekir Ugur |

Thailand’s Constitutional Court expects to reach verdicts by September in two high-profile political cases that could decide the fate of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and the opposition Move Forward Party (MFP), the court’s president said yesterday.

Speaking with reporters, Nakharin Mektrairat said that the judges will review evidence submitted by those involved in the cases, and render verdicts by September. As the Bangkok Post reported, Nakharin “assured the cases will be thoroughly deliberated, and that every judge in the cases has the freedom to make their own decisions.”

The two cases both have the potential to destabilize Thailand’s political landscape. The first case involves a petition filed by military-appointed senators, which claims that Prime Minister Srettha’s appointment to his cabinet of Pichit Chuenban, a lawyer with a past conviction for bribery, violated the Constitution. While Pichit has since resigned, the case could potentially see Srettha removed from office, which would once again throw Thai politics into flux.

The second case concerns a complaint that the Election Commission has filed, seeking the dissolution of the MFP, currently the largest party in the Thai parliament. The complainants say that the MFP’s campaign promise to amend Thailand’s lese-majeste law, which criminalizes any criticism of the monarchy and the royal family, lies beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse.

The implications of the case against the MFP could be equally far-reaching. Should the Constitutional Court decide to dissolve the court – and the court has already ruled that the party’s lese-majeste reform pledge amounted to an attempt to overthrow Thailand’s constitutional monarchy – it would risk significant political unrest.

At last year’s general election, the MFP won more seats than any other party, on a progressive platform that included pledges to break up business monopolies and end military conscription. The party was subsequently blocked from forming a government by the military-appointed Senate, in large part due to its lese-majeste reform pledge. The party’s popularity has only grown since and according to a poll released earlier this week, is now the country’s most popular political party, by some distance.

A possible precedent is offered by the Constitutional Court’s dissolution of Future Forward, the MFP’s predecessor, in February 2020. This prompted the emergence of a youth protest movement in 2020 and 2021 that went much further than any previous in its diagnosis of Thailand’s political problems, connecting it to the previously unchallenged institution of the Thai monarchy. The disbanding of the much more popular MFP would likely reopen the deep rifts in Thai politics.

The Constitutional Court is expected to hold hearings into both cases this week: tomorrow for the case involving the MFP, and July 10 for the case involving the prime minister. As long as the cases remain unresolved, the resulting political uncertainty will hamstring the recovery of Thailand’s economy, which has stagnated since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The difficulty for Thailand is that the resolution of either case, if the Court rules in favor of the complainants, could further deepen the sense of uncertainty.