Thailand opposition Move Forward party files defenses to fight dissolution case News
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Thailand opposition Move Forward party files defenses to fight dissolution case

Pita Limjaroenrat, former leader of Thailand’s progressive opposition Move Forward Party (MPF), on Sunday announced nine defenses for fighting the case pending at the Constitutional Court which could lead to the dissolution of the party.

Limjaroenrat’s party is facing a petition from the Election Commission for proposing to amend the country’s royal insult law, also known as the “lèse-majesté” law. The MFP proposed to reduce sentences of lèse-majesté violations under Section 112 of the Criminal Code and require lèse-majesté complaints to be filed by the Royal Household Bureau. The Election Commission claimed that the MFP violated Section 92 of the organic law on political parties by attempting to overthrow the country’s constitutional monarchy and requested the MFP to be disbanded and its executives to be disqualified from election or starting a new party for a period of 10 years. The petition has been accepted and is now pending at the Constitutional Court of Thailand.

The case follows a previous ruling of the Constitutional Court on January 31 that the MFP’s efforts to change the royal insult law are illegal, ordering the MFP to cease any attempts to push for change.

On Sunday, the MFP held a press conference to brief the media on the party’s strategy and legal defenses submitted to the court in the pending case. The MFP put forward nine claims, including the Constitutional Court’s lack of jurisdiction and authority, the illegality of the petition process, the non-binding and irrelevant nature of the January 31 ruling, the last-resort nature of party dissolution, and the proportionality and consistency of the penalty. Limjaroenrat expressed that he is confident the arguments would prevail “if there is a rule of law in Thailand.”

Currently, the lèse-majesté law imposes a sentence between three to 15 years of prison for each insult, defamatory remark or threat towards the monarchy. Many Thai activists have been convicted and sentenced under the law.

The MFP is known for its advocacy of pro-democracy reforms and military-politics detachment, among others. In the 2023 general elections, it surprisingly won a majority of 151 seats and became the largest party in Thailand’s House of Representatives, but the military-backed Senate blocked Limjaroenrat from taking power as the prime minister due to his alleged intention of introducing reforms to the country’s monarchy. Limjaroenrat thus warned in the current case that the dissolution of the country’s largest opposition party could potentially attack democracy in the country as it threatens the mechanism of checks and balances on the government.