Election Commission decides to bring criminal charges against Thanathorn

Caption: Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit campaigns for the 2019 election as the leader of the Future Forward Party. Source: Thanathorn's FB

On 26 October, the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) decided to file a criminal charge against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and 15 executive members of the dissolved Future Forward Party.

The ECT claimed that Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the leader of the dissolved party, violated Section 66 of the Organic Law on Political Parties, which prohibits political donations more than 10 million baht per person per year. He could be jailed for up to 5 years, fined up to 100,000 baht, and deprived of the right to participate in elections for 5 years.  

The ECT said that the 15 executives of the former Future Forward Party will be charged with violating Sections 72 and 137 of the same law, which prohibit receiving political donation more than 10 million baht per year. They could be jailed for up to 3 years and fined up to 1 million baht.

The former party executives include Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, Kunthida Rungruengkiat, Chamnan Chanruang, Lt Gen Pongsakorn Rodchompoo, Pannika Wanich, Klaikong Vaidhyakarn, Niraman Sulaiman, Yaowalux Wongpraparat, Surachai Srisarakham, Janevit Kraisin, Jaruwan Saranket, Nitipat Taemphairojana, Chan Phakdisri, Sunthon Bunyod, and Ronnawit Lorlertsoonthorn.

The criminal charges against the leadership of the disbanded Future Forward Party were announced on the same day as protesters held a large rally in front of the Embassy of Germany, calling for the German government to investigate King Vajiralongkorn’s residency in Bavaria and calling for a comprehensive reform of the Thai monarchy.

The right-wing outlets and pro-monarchy supporters often accuse Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, and Pannika Wanich of manipulating the pro-democracy protesters behind the scenes. On 21 October, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha made a reference to “dark power no matter where it comes from.”

They also face criticism from some segments in the democratic movement for not being frontal enough in the ongoing protests which demand the resignation of Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, constitutional amendments, and monarchy reform.

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, and Pannika Wanich continued their activism under the banner of the Progressive Movement after the dissolution of the Future Forward Party, despite being banned from formal politics.

In February, the Constitutional Court disbanded the Future Forward Party for taking a 191 million baht loan from its leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. The party’s executives were also banned from forming a new political party, joining the executive board of a political party, or running in an election for 10 years.

In response, MPs of the dissolved Future Forward Party reorganized under the Move Forward Party led by Pita Limjaroenrat. Several of them defected to join government coalition parties, facing harsh criticism from the public.

In September, the ECT decided not to file a complaint with the Constitutional Court against 31 other political parties, which also faced the same charges. The Commission claimed that these parties did not take loans or receive political donations of more than 10 million baht per year per person.