Move Forward Party races against the clock for its final defence

Photo courtesy of The Nation

The Constitutional Court has thrown a lifeline to the embattled Move Forward Party (MFP), granting a 15-day extension in their high-stakes battle against dissolution.

Citing the noble cause of justice, this last-minute reprieve pushes the deadline to June 2, marking the final opportunity for the main opposition to salvage its political future.

The legal saga dates back to April 3 when the Constitutional Court greenlit a judicial review following accusations by the Election Commission. The MFP stands accused of violating the Political Parties Act and allegedly scheming to undermine the monarchy by advocating for amendments to Article 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law.

Facing the grim prospect of dissolution and a ten-year political ban, the party had initially been granted a mere 15 days, up to April 18, to mount its defence. However, following pleas for extensions, the court begrudgingly allowed two additional 15-day respites, culminating in the current deadline extension.

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MFP leader Chaithawat Tulathon argued vehemently for a more generous extension, citing the complexity of the case compared to a previous legal tussle involving the party’s ex-leader, Pita Limjaroenrat, reported The Nation.

Allegedly, Limjaroenrat’s case, revolving around purported election law violations, had enjoyed double the grace period.

ORIGINAL STORY: Thailand’s Move Forward Party faces possible dissolution

The Move Forward Party (MFP), one of Thailand’s major opposition parties, is currently battling a case against its dissolution in court. The case was triggered by the Election Commission’s (EC) proposal, based on Section 92 of the Political Parties Act, after the MFP was found to be advocating for amendments to Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lese majeste law.

The court granted the MFP an extension to May 3 to file its defence following the EC’s petition accepted on April 3. However, the MFP sought another extension on April 24, requesting an additional 15 days.

The EC has the authority to propose a party’s dissolution to the court if substantial evidence of activities deemed harmful to the democratic regime with the King as the head of state.

This action stems from a Constitutional Court ruling on January 31, where the MFP was deemed to be undermining the constitutional monarchy by advocating changes to the lese majeste law.

Following the ruling, the MFP was ordered to halt all efforts to amend Section 112 and was prohibited from making changes through non-legislative channels.

Campaigning for this issue was considered an attempt to abolish the constitutional monarchy and a violation of the constitution. The court cited the past actions of Pita Limjaroenrat, the party’s ex-leader, and the MFP as a whole, including their attempts to secure bail for lese majeste suspects.

The court stated that Pita and the MFP tried to alter or annul Section 112 when its 44 Members of Parliament (MPs) submitted a bill to amend it on March 25, 2021.

Legislative processes

Deputy Party Leader, Police Major General Supisarn Bhakdinarinath, stated that the party had not engaged in any attempts to overthrow the constitutional monarchy, stating that the party was merely fulfilling its duty as MPs and following legislative processes when submitting the bill to amend Section 112.

He added that the MFP had complied with the court’s order to cease all attempts to amend the section. However, he also acknowledged that if the court uses the same logic as in the January 31 ruling, the party might be dissolved.

“The party is prepared. Let’s wait and see people’s reaction. The more the party is suppressed, the more it will grow.”

He further speculated that the number of party MPs might increase from the current 150 to 250 in the next election.

According to law, if a party is disbanded, its MPs must join new parties within 60 days or lose their MP status.

Pattana Reonchaidee, a law lecturer at Ramkhamhaeng University, added that the same judges who delivered the ruling on January 21 would rule on the dissolution case. He expressed his belief that the ruling will be delivered sooner rather than later and it may not favour the MFP.

The MFP won the most votes in the May 14 election, with a total of 14.4 million votes, securing 151 seats in the House.

Pattana further suggested that if the party is disbanded, some people may consider it as being treated unjustly and sympathise with it, potentially leading to more votes for the MFP in the next election, reported Bangkok Post.

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Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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