Dissolving FFP won't benefit nation
Political gurus who predicted the Future Forward Party (FFP) would be dissolved by the Constitutional Court over the "Illuminati case" were proven wrong when the court ruled otherwise on Jan 24.
In this case, Natthaporn Toprayoon, a former aide to of one of the ombudsmen. accused the party of being against democratic rule and committing acts to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.
Those accusations were far more serious than the one facing the party concerning a loan, on which the Constitutional Court will rule this Friday. The party accepted a 191.2-million-baht loan from its leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, in violation of the Political Party Act.
Taking into consideration the seriousness of the accusations, quite a few people would have agreed with the gurus that the FFP had committed a serious crime and that it should be finished off.
But then the court pulled a big surprise when it ruled the so-called evidence presented by the accuser was merely rhetoric and lacked the substance to prove the party was in the wrong.
The party and its supporters breathed a sigh of relief but awaits a verdict on this second case submitted to the court by the Election Commission (EC).
The case is straightforward and uncomplicated. Mr Thanathorn lent the money to the party and this is a fact which does not need to be proven.
However, whether the loan is illegal or not is the issue to be judged by the court. The FFP contends that since the law, Section 62 of the Political Party Act, only specifies that a party can draw income from seven sources without mention of loans, it is OK for the party to secure a loan.
Then, Section 66 of the law says a party cannot receive a donation of more than 10 million baht from one person and a violation of this clause means the party's executive committee will be banned from politics for five years, but the party will not be dissolved.
The EC has accused the FFP of accepting a loan, assets or other interests that were acquired illegally or from illegal sources in accordance with Section 72 of the act. Violation of this section would see the party dissolved in accordance with Section 92 of the constitution.
There are two legal issues at stake here. Is loan a form of income, and is it illegal for a party to take a loan? And should the party be dissolved for taking the loan?
Personally, I believe a loan is neither income nor a donation, but an interest in accordance with the law. And the source of this loan is not illegal -- a cause that would justify the party's dissolution as wished by the EC.
So, what is this 191.2-million-baht sum?
One might assume the intention of Mr Thanathorn was to donate the sum to the party to fund its activities because the party had little time for fundraising. Under such an assumption, this would be a hidden transaction to cover up the true nature of the money, which is actually a donation. In that case, the party should not be dissolved.
Even if the sum is not regarded as a donation, the party should not be dissolved either because it is not dirty money.
This is not a clear-cut case of the party defying the law with ill-intention. If there is any doubt, the benefit should be given to the accused.
It does not serve the interest of the public or the country for a party which has obtained a loan to fund its political activities to be disbanded. It will only fuel dissension and drive Thai society into deeper and wider political polarisation.
Veera Prateepchaikul is former editor, Bangkok Post.
Former Bangkok Post Editor, political commentator and a regular columnist at Post Publishing.