The Election Commission (EC) has voted to ask the Constitutional Court to disband the Future Forward Party on the grounds that its executives accepted cash or donations from an illegitimate source.
Leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit lent the party 191 million baht in January.
If the court agrees with the EC, the party’s 15 executives -- including Mr Thanathorn, who was disqualified as MP last month, secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul and spokesperson Pannika Wanich -- will be banned from politics. They also would not be allowed to register or set up, be executives of or take part in founding a party for 10 years.
The party’s 80 MPs would be free to join other parties.
The court could also suspend the party’s operations while considering whether to dissolve it entirely.
The EC issued a statement on Wednesday it found the party had violated Section 72 of the Political Party Act, which prohibits political parties and its executives from accepting cash, assets or other benefits when they know or should know they come from an illegitimate source.
In May, Mr Thanathorn told a forum held by the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand that he had lent almost 200 million baht to the party.
He also declared the loan in his asset declaration by naming the party as one of his debtors.
The revelation drew scrutiny, and activist Srisuwan Janya filed a petition with the EC in the same month to probe whether the loan violated the political parties law.
Section 66 refers to donations, rather than loans, and reads: “No one may donate cash, assets or other benefits worth more than 10 million baht to a political party.”
Mr Thanathorn listed Future Forward as his debtor for the amount of 191.2 million baht in two loan contracts made at the party’s head office and signed by Mr Thanathorn and Nitipat Tampairoj, party financier, acting on behalf of the party’s leader as the borrower.
Rattanon Apinan, Mr Thanathorn’s lawyer and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary-general, were witnesses to the contract signing.
Under the first 191.2-million baht contract made on Jan 2, the borrower has to repay the loan over a three-year period in instalments of 80 million, 40 million and 41.2 million baht. The interest rate was set at 7.5% a year.
The other contract was made on April 11 for a credit line of 30 million baht. The borrower received 2.7 million baht on the contract-signing date, with the rest to be provided subsequently. The borrower was to repay it in one year at an interest rate of 2% per annum.