Moves to disband Pheu Thai begin as vote nears

Moves to disband Pheu Thai begin as vote nears

A protester wears a t-shirt featuring former Prime Ministers Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra during a demonstration calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha over the government's handling of the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis in Bangkok on Sept 2, 2021. (AFP file photo)
A protester wears a t-shirt featuring former Prime Ministers Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra during a demonstration calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha over the government's handling of the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis in Bangkok on Sept 2, 2021. (AFP file photo)

Members of the military-backed ruling party asked the Election Commission to start a probe that could disband the main competition ahead of a vote expected in early 2022.

Two people including a member of Palang Pracharath, which backs Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, said the opposition Pheu Thai party linked to former leader Thaksin Shinawatra broke rules after he recently appeared on a video call with its members. Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 coup, and has lived in self-exile for more than a decade following a corruption conviction he says was politically motivated.  

Parties aligned with Thaksin have won the most seats in every general election since 2001. The former telecommunications tycoon has received support from millions of poor and rural Thais despite living outside the country, and has recently reached a broader audience with an online talk show.  

Based on a law governing political parties in Thailand, Thaksin can’t instruct or influence Pheu Thai because he isn’t a member, the two petitioners said. They filed two separate requests on Tuesday seeking an investigation by the poll agency as well as a Constitutional Court ruling. 

Anusorn Iamsa-ard, the deputy leader of Pheu Thai, said the petitioners “shouldn’t discriminate” and must also file to disband Palang Pracharath since Gen Prayut isn’t a member but has been involved with its affairs. 

The petitions against Pheu Thai came amid speculation of early elections as well as a planned gathering on Oct 31 to protest the government and the use of lese majeste against demonstrators who are calling for reform of the monarchy. 

Thailand’s royalist establishment has disbanded numerous opposition parties over the years, including several linked to Thaksin. The military-backed government has resisted changes to the constitution to allow more democracy, leading to regular protests that have occasionally turned violent.  

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