Thailand’s election panel has asked the Constitutional Court on Wednesday to dissolve the opposition Future Forward Party. Accusing the party of accepting multimillion-dollar loans from its leader.
Future Foreward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, 41, has emerged as the most outspoken opponent of the government headed by former junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha. The party he helped found came a surprise third in an election in March. His party has since emerged as the most vocal challenge to the government.
“The loan to the Future Forward Party from Mr. Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit… violates article 72 of political party legislation,” the Election Commission said in a statement.
It was referring to a clause that forbids acceptance of money, assets, or interests from questionable sources.
The party borrowed US$6.3 million in two sums, one of US$5.3 million in January. The a second of US$994,000 in April, Thanathorn said in an official declaration of assets to an anti-graft panel.
A dissolution of the party could also lead to a bar from politics for party officials, although the legislation sets no timeframe.
“Why is the money we got through loans from Thanathorn, the party leader, questionable? The Election Commission did not explain this,” Future Forward Party Secretary-General Piyabutr Saengkanokkul said. He accused the election panel of not providing enough reasons for the Future Forward party case.
Thai political party law does not bar parties from taking loans. Future Forward Party has previously made its loans public and said that they will be paid back with interest.
“The decision by the election commission will not stop Future Forward’s journey,” Piyabutr said.
“Let it be known that the party created for the search of a new future for the country doesn’t have a place to stand,” he said.
Military backed government of unfairly targeting Thanathorn
Last week, Thanathorn accused the government of unfairly targeting him and the party with a string of legal tactics. Saying that they undermined democracy in Thailand. The Kingdom was under military rule until the March election, following a 2014 coup.
Analyst warn that the move by the Election Commission to dissolve the Future Forward party could backfire.
“This could escalate the popularity of the Future Forward Party and if it gets dissolved the party’s popularity won’t die but will become stronger,” Titipol Phakdeewanich, dean of the faculty of political science at Ubon Ratchathani University told Reuters.
“But it is bad for democracy,” he said.
Since the election, Thanathorn was suspended from parliament and was found guilty last month of breaching election law. He allegedly held shares in a media company on the date his candidacy was registered for the election.
“They use the law to destroy political opposition, something that has been going on since the 2014 coup,” Titipol said.
“This shows that the election didn’t back democracy but it has empowered the military to do whatever they want,” he said.