Turbulence here to stay
The decision of the Election Commission (EC) to pursue criminal charges against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and the 16 former executives of the now-defunct Future Forward Party (FFP) over the 191-million-baht loan that led to the party's dissolution deserves public outrage.
For many, the harsh punishment against the party, which was no doubt seen as a threat to the status quo, is disproportionate to the crime -- if it can be called a crime at all.
Based on the court's Feb 21 decision, the money which Mr Thanathorn lent the party -- which was accepted by the party as "other benefits" -- breached Section 66 of the Political Parties Act, which limits donations to 10 million baht per donor per year. Mr Thanathorn and his wife separately made 10 million baht donations which the court also ruled against.
The EC's Oct 28 decision is based on the controversial court ruling which was disputed by a group of law experts who defined a political party as a juristic entity, not a public organisation, meaning it is able to obtain loans. Not to mention the interpretation of a debatable clause: the court classified loans as "illegitimate sources of money," while critics and the FFP argued that loans are legitimate and good way to obtain funds.
In addition to the party's dissolution, with the party later reincarnated as Move Forward (MF), its executives, including Mr Thanathorn, were slapped with red cards that ban them from politics for 10 years. If guilty in the criminal case, Mr Thanathorn, who formed the Progressive Movement group, could be jailed for up to 5 years and fined up to 100,000 baht.
The controversial EC decision came at the same time as the charter court's verdict to disqualify Move Forward MP Tanwarin Sukkhapisit for breaking the law relating to shareholdings in media firms.
Several critics found the penalty against the MP excessive given that the court admitted the performance of the two companies had nothing to do with the MP's past political activities. The MP now faces further legal action from the EC for breaking the law on MP elections. If convicted, the penalty is a jail term of up to 10 years, a fine of 20,000 baht and a 20-year ban on becoming an MP. It should be noted that while treating Ms Tanwarin harshly, the court acquitted 57 other MPs both from the ruling party and the opposition who had the same charges.
The simultaneous move against Ms Tanwarin by the charter court, and the FFP by the EC, could be seen as bad timing now that the country is trapped in political strife, with the young generation, who are mainly FFP supporters, boisterously challenging unfair action by state authorities and independent bodies who operate under a contentious charter that is politically motivated when applied to the new party. More importantly, the poll agency has been accused of having double standards when compared to its leniency when dealing with Palang Pracharath's controversial Chinese banquet aimed at raising funds.
Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, another Future Forward official slapped with criminal charges by the EC, who is also a legal expert, termed such manoeuvres against the FFP and MF parties as "legal warfare.'' As long as the state cannot ensure fairness to all, political turbulence in Thailand is here to stay, and the road to reconciliation will be rough.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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