Thailand’s Constitutional Court dissolved the Future Forward Party on Friday and banned 16 of its leaders from politics for 10 years. The party was charged with violations of election laws by taking a 191 million baht loan from the party’s billionaire leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.
The decision, which leaves open the possibility that the elections commission could pursue party leaders for criminal charges, comes just one month after members of the party were acquitted on charges of trying to overthrow the monarchy. In March the court dissolved another opposition party, the Thai Raksa Chart party. Numerous groups have questioned the actions of the court, stating their concerns about political fairness and election legitimacy.
After the announcement by the court, Nicholas Bequelin, the Regional Director of Amnesty International, released a statement condemning the decision.
Today’s decision by the Constitutional Court to dissolve the Future Forward Party illustrates how the authorities use judicial processes to intimidate, harass and target political opposition. Thai authorities must reverse the dissolution decision and restore genuine rights to freedom of expression and association in the country. The dissolution … is the culmination of the Thai authorities’ relentless onslaught against the party’s leaders and members. … [T]he authorities have used sweeping and vaguely worded legal restrictions to dissolve the party…The Thai government, members of parliament, and all political parties in Thailand must commit to protecting the rights to freedom of expression and association. The international community … must clearly demonstrate it will not accept the outlawing of political opposition.
The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights also issued a statement condemning the dissolution as well as the numerous attacks against the Future Forward Party since the 2019 elections. The statement says the Thai court’s decision “follows a broader trend in Southeast Asia, of governments shutting down opposition parties by creating trumped-up criminal charges against their members, and using these so-called ‘crimes’ to strip them of their MP status, a practice known as ‘lawfare.'”