Constitutional Court rules to dissolve Future Forward Party

The Constitutional Court of Thailand ruled to dissolve the Future Forward Party on the grounds that the party has broken Article 72 of the 2017 Organic Law on Political Parties by taking a loan from its leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. The Court also banned its leaders for ten years.

One of the supporters who came to the party headquarters to watch the live broadcast of the ruling holding a sign saying "when injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty." The person next to her has a sign saying the same thing in Thai. 

After the court verdict, FFP supporters hold up their hands in the three-finger 'Hunger Games' salute, a well-recognized resistance symbol, and sang one of the party's songs as they wait for the party leaders to come down to the press conference room. 

Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit (right) and Secretary-General Piyabutr Saengkanokkul (left) at the press conference following the ruling

Thanathorn vowed to reorganize the now-dissolved political party as the Future Forward Group in order to continue the party's mission, including state welfare, military reform, and amending the Constitution. He also said that the remaining FFP MPs will join a new political party and asked FFP's supporters to support the new party.

Meanwhile, the word "party" has now been crossed off of the Future Forward logo in all of its social media pages. 

Article 72 of the 2017 Organic Law on Political Parties states that no political party or individuals holding office in a political party shall receive money, property, or other benefit if they know, or could be expected to know, that it was illegally acquired, or if they have reasonable cause to suspect that it was illegally acquired.

The Court ruled that, due to the circumstances of the loan and the nature of the contract not following the norms, the FFP’s acceptance of a loan from Thanathorn is considered as constituting the receipt of illegally acquired money, property, or other benefit, as prohibited by Article 72. 

The Court also ruled to ban the party’s executives from forming a new political party, joining the board of executive of a political party, or running in an election for the next 10 years. 

The 10-year ban affects those who were members of the party’s board at the time the loan took place. Of the 16 board members, 11 won party list seats in parliament in the last election, including: 

1. Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, Secretary-General
2. Kunthida Rungruengkiat, Deputy Leader
3. Chamnan Chanruang
4. Lt Gen Pongsakorn Rodchompoo, former Deputy Leader
5. Pannika Wanich, spokesperson
6. Klaikong Vaidhyakarn
7. Niraman Sulaiman
8. Yaowalux Wongpraparat
9. Surachai Srisarakham
10. Janevit Kraisin
11. Jaruwan Saranket

And 4 others who are not MPs:

12. Nitipat Taemphairojana, Treasurer
13. Chan Phakdisri
14. Sunthon Bunyod
15. Ronnawit Lorlertsoonthorn, Deputy Leader
16. Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, Party Leader. 

Lt Gen Pongsakorn resigned from his position as deputy leader on 16 February after it emerged that he was still living in taxpayer-funded army housing after his retirement. However, since he was a board member at the time the loan took place, the ban also applies to him. 

The first 11 board members immediately cease to be MPs, while the party’s remaining 65 MPs who are not affected by the ban now have to join another party within 60 days to keep their MP status

The Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) voted on 11 December 2019 to submit a request to the Court to rule whether the loan of 191 million baht  from Thanathorn is a violation of Article 72. 

On 25 December 2019, ten days after the request was filed, the Court accepted the ECT’s request. The Association of Thai Democrats Without Borders, a network of overseas Thai people led by former human rights commissioner and political activist in exile Jaran Ditapichai, issued a statement on 18 February criticizing the Court for its allegedly rushed acceptance of the ECT’s request, and claiming that the acceptance was “against the decision of its subcommittee.” 

Last week, historian Charnvit Kasetsiri started a campaign against the dissolution of FFP, which included 150 signatures from well-known figures in various circles, including academics, writers, activists, film directors, and actors, and now has over 40,000 signatures on Change.org.

The campaign states that “good politics should be a system which allows every side to compete fairly and be judged by the people, while trying to eradicate a particular political group will only create tension in society which is waiting to explode.[…] The best way out is to open up the political space as much as possible and to support the people’s political parties to become strong. Stop thinking that dissolving a political party or banning those who think differently is going to lead to peace.”

Meanwhile, the statement from the Association of Thai Democrats Without Borders says that the dissolution of political parties “will destroy political pluralism in Thailand” and that “the weakening of the opposition is a weakening of democracy for the benefit of the government of General Prayut Chan-o-cha.”

The hashtag #SaveFutureForward (#Saveอนาคตใหม่) trended on Twitter all through Friday, as the party’s supporters took to social media to express their support. 

The FFP has faced several lawsuits since the start of 2019. Its leader Thanathorn has been disqualified from parliament for owning shares in a media company, despite the company having ceased operations in 2017. The party and its leaders also faced anti-monarchy and sedition allegations in a complaint filed against them by former advisor to the Chief Ombudsman Nattaporn Toprayoon, colloquially known as “the Illuminati case.” They were acquitted in January 2020. 

The Court ruling took place three days before the debate on the motion of no-confidence against 6 ministers, including Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, which is currently scheduled to open on 24 February. 

Other than Gen Prayut, the opposition has also filed a motion of no-confidence against deputy prime ministers Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Wissanu Krea-ngam, Minister of Interior Anupong Paochinda, Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai, and Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Thammanat Prompow.

With the exception of Don and Thammanat, the other four ministers all had roles in the National Council of Peace and Order (NCPO), which staged the military coup in 2014.