Constitutional Court rules to dissolve TRC party

The Constitutional Court of Thailand has ruled to dissolve the Thai Raksa Chart Party (TRC), and to prohibit TRC executive board members from running in an election, forming a new party, or be a board member of another party for a period of 10 years starting from today.

Preechapol Pongpanich and TRC representatives arriving at the Constitutional Court

At 15:00 today (7 March), the Constitutional Court of Thailand delivered a verdict on the Thai Raksa Chart case, after the Election Commission forwarded the case to the Court on 12 February. The Court has unanimously ruled to dissolve the party on the ground that its nomination of former princess Ubolratana Mahidol as its candidate for Prime Minister is in opposition to the constitutional monarchy, according to Section 92 Clause 2 in the 2017 Organic Law on Political Parties.

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The Court has cited a variety of legal precedence to support its ruling. Among them is a letter from King Prajadhipok to Phraya Manopakorn Nititada, later Thailand’s first Prime Minister, said that members of the royal family are not suited for political office, since they should remain in a place of respect and to run for or hold a political office would mean that they can be subjected to attack and criticism. The Court said that the principle of placing the royal family above politics has been one of the fundamental principles of Thai democracy, and it should be maintained that members of the royal family should not get involved in politics in ways that will subject them to criticism or will bring about conflict between the monarchy and the people. The Court also cited past court ruling on whether members of the royal family need to vote, which said that, according to the constitution, the monarch is above politics and follows the principle of political neutrality, and both the monarch and members of the royal family never have to vote. To require the royal family to vote would create conflict and violate the principle of political neutrality, and the Constitutional Court has ruled that they are not required to vote.

By this reasoning, the Court said that TRC’s nomination of Ubolratana as candidate for Prime Minister is therefore an action which may violate a fundamental principle of the constitutional monarchy, since it would place a member of the royal family in a position of political power, and destroy the principle that the monarch reigns but does not rule. The Court said that TRC has the right and freedom to take part in political activities, but taking part in political activities must not be in opposition with the fundamental and will of the constitution and with tradition of the constitutional monarchy. To destroy the monarch’s position of political neutrality would undermine or destroy the constitutional monarchy, and it would be inappropriate to let such a thing happen.

Thus, according to Section 92 of the 2017 Organic Law on Political Parties, the Court has ruled to dissolve TRC to prevent major damage to one of the countries’ major institutions, despite TRC having no intention of acting in opposition to the constitutional monarchy. The Court has also ruled to prohibit TRC's executive board members from participating in politics for the next 10 years. 

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TRC is the third party in Taksin Shinawatra’s bloc to have been dissolved, the first two being Thai Rak Thai Party and Palang Prachachon Party. The dissolution ruling means that TRC’s 270 MP candidates are now disqualified from the upcoming general election, which is taking place on 24 March. The Court has also ruled to prohibit TRC’s 13 executive board members from running in an election, forming a new party, or be a board member of another party for a period of 10 years starting from the day the party is dissolved, essentially barring them from participating in politics.

The Court said that TRC’s action is in opposition to the constitutional monarchy, but is not considered an attempt to abolish the constitutional monarchy. The Court therefore ruled to prohibit TRC’s executive board members from participating in politics for 10 years instead of for life.

Preechapol speaking to reporters after the verdict has been delivered

Lt Preechapol Pongpanich, leader of the TRC party, said after he left the courtroom that he and other executive board members accepted the 8 February Royal Command out of loyalty to the King and the royal family. He said that both he and the board are saddened by the verdict, and that dissolving a political party affects fundamental political rights, at least for the party’s candidates and for the public. He would like to thank the people for their support. Even if TRC as a political party is not long-lived, Preechapol said that they have received so much kindness from the people, and that they have tried their best to do their job. He said that they want to see the country changing for the better and they intended to do good for the country. He would like to thank both TRC’s candidates and the people for their support, even if they did not get to where they want to be. The country still has problems, and those who are still working must keep going.

For himself and the board, Preechapol said that they will continue to work for the country no matter their position, and affirmed that they all have good intentions. He said he believed that he and the board members can still work for the country even if they can no longer participate in politics.

Ubolratana's Instagram post

Meanwhile, Ubolratana replied to a comment on her Instagram account that she has received news of the verdict and that she has found it to be very sad and depressing. To a comment which say “this is sad, but I would like to keep standing by you,” Ubolratana replied “thank you. I will do my best.”

After the verdict was delivered, the crowd which gathered at the Constitutional Court headquarters at the Chaengwattana Government Complex began to shout “dissolve any party and we’ll still fight” and “a pen can kill a dictatorship” over and over, and that on 24 March, people should vote for Pheu Thai, Puea Chart, Thai Liberal, and Future Forward parties.

A crowd gathered after the verdict has been delivered

Earlier today, there has also been a report that the Metropolitan Police Bureau has issued an order prohibiting public assembly within a 50-metre radius of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court, since the interested public may be gathering at the court to hear the verdict, and there is a chance of unrest.

The 2018 Organic Law on the Constitutional Court also has a section on violation of the court’s authority, prohibiting criticism of the court ruling which is done with ill intention, or using derogatory or threatening language. Violating this section could result in a prison sentence of up to 1 month or a fine of up to 50,000 baht, or both.