Thailand: Future Forward on thin ice

  • All eyes will be on the Constitutional Court on 20 Nov 19 when it delivers a ruling which could make or break the embattled Future Forward Party (FFP) leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit in a media-shareholding case.
  • The party and its leader face a slew of legal cases that place their political future in jeopardy.
  • In the worst-case scenario, the party, which has 80 MPs, could be dissolved and its 24 executives banned from politics.
  • If the court rules against him, this may cause “a domino effect” that could culminate in the party being disbanded, observers say.
  • The FFP and Mr Thanathorn have been in a serious predicament with several legal cases brought against them during the past few months. Some even say the party has now been in a downward spiral since its inception in 2018.
  • An internal rift has also emerged in the party as 120 former election candidates and party members resigned en masse, accusing Mr Thanathorn of ignoring unsuccessful candidates and failing to keep promises to give them political jobs.
  • A few of the party MPs also refused to toe the party line as they voted in favour of government-sponsored bills — an executive decree to transfer army units to the royal command and the THB3.2tr spending plan for the 2020 fiscal year.
  • But there are three cases which could lead to the dissolution of the FFP. One involves donations made by Mr Thanathorn and his wife, Rawiphan. The FFP leader donated THB10mn to his party and his wife contributed THB7.2mn.
  • Activist Srisuwan Janya has asked the EC to rule whether the couple are considered a single entity under the law. If so, their combined donations of THB17.2mn would be in violation of Section 66 of the law on political parties, which caps donations by an individual to a party at THB10mn, he said.
  • Mr Srisuwan has also asked the EC to investigate whether Mr Thanathorn broke the same law by granting a loan of more than THB100mn to his party.
  • Yutthaporn Isarachai, a political scientist from Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, said that if the court rules against Mr Thanathorn on 20 Nov 19, this could set off a chain reaction leading to the FFP being disbanded.
  • In the event of the party’s dissolution, its MPs still have 60 days to move to new parties and retain their MP status as stipulated by Section 101 of the constitution, Mr Yutthaporn said.

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