02/22/2020, 09.00
THAILAND
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Thai Constitutional Court dissolves country’s third-largest party

The Future Forward Party (FFP) is dissolved because it accepted illegal funding from its founder and leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. Main party leaders have also been banned from political life for ten years. In parliament, opposition forces have been weakened.

 

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Thailand’s Constitutional Court ruled in favour of the dissolution of the country's third-largest political party, over an illegal campaign loan of 191.3 million baht (US million) from its founder and leader, magnate Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit (pictured).

The Future Forward Party (Phak Anakhot Mai, FFP) was founded only 16 months ago. For many analysts its progressive platform made it one of the most interesting experiments in Thai politics of recent years.

In the election of 24 March 2019, which marked the country’s return to democracy after almost five years of military rule, the FFP won more than 6.2 million votes.

After the post vote uncertainty, the party joined an alliance of seven pro-democracy parties. However, the latter failed to prevent military strongman General Prayut Chan-o-cha from returning to power at the helm of a civilian government.

The court ruled that the money party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit lent the party was “other benefits” under Section 66 of the Political Parties Act, which limits donations to 10 million baht (US0,000)

The money in excess of 10 million baht, or 181.3 million baht, will be seized and put in the Political Party Development fund.

The court also barred FFP leaders from politics for 10 years. Thanathorn and his colleagues thus cannot join a party or create a new one until 2030. Without the right to vote, they are automatically excluded from running for seat since it is prerequisite for being elected.

Following the ruling, the Election Commission (EC) can take legal action against Thanathorn and 15 party leaders, including secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul and spokesperson Pannika Wanich.

If convicted, Mr Thanathorn could be jailed for up to five years and the other officials for up to three years.

Last night the now former FFP leader said that his party will be reborn as a movement and pledged to continue promoting a programme of reform outside parliament.

The remaining 65 FFP MPs must now find a political party within 60 days. Ten list seats held by the now-banned party will also have to be reallocated.

It is unclear whether the EC will allow party members to replace them. If not, the opposition will be weakened ahead of next week's no-confidence debate.

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