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Thai Court Accepts Case Seeking to Dissolve Popular Opposition Party Move Forward

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Updated: | Originally published:

Thailand’s Constitutional Court has accepted a petition to disband the nation’s largest opposition party that was previously found guilty of breaching the charter over efforts to amend the nation’s stringent royal defamation law.

The court accepted the petition by the Election Commission to dissolve Move Forward Party on Wednesday, based on the same court’s verdict in January that the group’s campaign to loosen the lese majeste law, also known as Article 112 of the Thai penal code, amounted to an attempt to overthrow the country’s constitutional monarchy.

Move Forward has 15 days to submit its defense, the court said in a statement.

The case is the latest in a series of setbacks for the upstart party, which shook Thai politics by winning the most parliamentary seats on support from largely young and urban voters who had grown frustrated with nearly a decade of military-backed administrations. Its candidate Pita Limjaroenrat was blocked by pro-establishment conservative lawmakers from becoming the prime minister last year, before being cleared of allegations that he had violated election rules.

Read More: Thailand’s New Prime Minister Is Getting Down to Business. But Can He Heal His Nation?

If the opposition party is dissolved, Pita and other executive members will likely be banned from politics for 10 years. As part of the January ruling, the charter court ordered Move Forward to stop all attempts to revise the royal insult law, which protects the monarchy from defamation and carries up to 15 years in prison for each offense.

Move Forward leader Chaithawat Tulathon vowed to defend the party’s position in the court and present more evidence to avoid a dissolution. 

Another probe

“We will fight this case to the best of our ability,” Chaithawat told reporters. “There are still legal arguments to make and some facts to present.”

The party also faces a probe by the National Anti-Corruption Commission that may result in a lifetime political ban on 44 of its current or former lawmakers who signed a draft amendment of the lese majeste law it proposed to parliament in early 2021. 

Move Forward’s current predicament has been likened to that of its predecessor, Future Forward Party, which was dissolved and whose key leaders were barred from political office for a decade. A fresh dissolution order could also potentially unleash more political unrest that may roil Thai financial markets anew.

But the reformist party, which won 151 seats in the 500-member parliament and almost 40% of the popular votes in May 2023, has remained unfazed, with Pita saying the group had “long prepared” itself for a potential dissolution. 

When a political party is dissolved, its sitting lawmakers may join a new party within 30 days to keep their seats in the lower house.

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